After improvement in 2012, this year's school grades are a major disappointment. The entire state took a step back -- 482 schools lost their "A" grades, and 67 more schools are considered failing in 2013.
Highlands County has its first failing school, and only two schools improved. Of 13 schools, nine lost a grade.
This should be devastating news.
It would be devastating news, except for one thing: Somewhere along the way standardized testing got out of hand. Forgive us. We understate the case. What we should say is that somewhere along the way standardized testing became down right irrational.
For example, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores have been essentially meaningless for three years now, ever since the state demanded more difficult questions and a greater number of correct answers.
That would be a good thing, of course, except the state Department of Education introduced the tougher tests before it initiated the curriculum needed to understand them. As a result, the state knew in advance student scores would drop dramatically.
Here's where things get really crazy. The state's solution was to create complicated, multiple-step equations to "compensate" for the drop in scores. For example, a formula was created to "protect" a school from losing more than one grade.
It seems more like fudging to us.
In fact, the end result is confusion, frustration and cynicism.
Knowing there were serious problems ahead, how is it no attempt was made to explore more options? Why did no one think to phase-in the more difficult test gradually over several years as students were exposed to the common core curriculum?
Part of the state's narrow vision comes from the fact that in the big picture students are no longer seen as human beings. They are viewed as sources of data instead.
Which is why we despair.
We do, however, retain optimism about the future. It may be a badly bungled beginning, but the common core curriculum is necessary in today's world when our students face global competition. The district embraces this new direction. It has reorganized district and school administrators and trained teachers all summer.
This year's disappointing news did not originate in Highlands County classrooms -- it was a gift from Tallahassee