Miami Herald | COLLEEN WRIGHT | June 16, 2020
The Miami-Dade County school district has touted that none of its schools has received an F grade from the state for the past three years.
But letters from the Florida Department of Education obtained by the Miami Herald show that streak may be over.
On April 6, the state alerted the school district in a letter addressed to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho that Frederick R. Douglass Elementary received a final grade of an F for the 2018-19 school year, almost a year after state-issued accountability grades were released. In that same email, it was determined that the school earned a grade of a C for the 2017-18 school year.
The school, located in the heart of historic Overtown, was initially given an “Incomplete” or “I” grade for the past two school years. That letter informed the school district that Frederick R. Douglass’ final grades of C and F for 2017 and 2018, respectively, would be updated online for public view on the state’s website and included a hyperlink to the revised grades.
An F grade can put the school into “turnaround status,” triggering oversight from the state.
Carvalho then made a phone call to the state, according to state Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters. A second letter was sent to the school district from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on May 19.
That letter reiterated that the Florida Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General determined no further investigation is required and recommended that that school grades be released for Frederick R. Douglass. Still, the state gave the school district 60 days to complete a “full investigation for testing administration practices” at Frederick R. Douglass and allowed the school to keep its “I” grade in the meantime.
“In response to your inquiry to complete a full investigation for testing administration practices at Frederick R. Douglass, the Department will grant your request to hold the issuing of a school grade until your investigation is complete,” Corcoran wrote. “We look forward to resolution on or before August 4, 2020.”
Publicly available state data now show the school has an “I” grade for 2019 and no grade at all for 2018. School data for Frederick R. Douglass is absent on EduData, the state’s public accountability portal, as if the school doesn’t exist.
Spokeswomen for both the state and district say the issue concerning Frederick R. Douglass does not affect the school district’s overall A rating.
School district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said in an email that Frederick R. Douglass does not have an F because that “was the state’s original position.”
“The fact the school remains an ‘I’ is because the state agrees that further investigation of data irregularities that potentially impact school wide learning gains merit further review,” she wrote. “We cannot comment further on ongoing investigations.”
Etters, the Florida Department of Education spokeswoman, said it is possible the district’s findings could change Frederick R. Douglass’ grade.
“We’re grateful for all the time Miami-Dade schools are putting into this issue, and yes, it is possible,” she wrote. “When we hear back from the district and discuss their findings, we’ll then discuss with them the most appropriate course of action.”
The state typically releases its school accountability grades in the summer. School grades could mean more funding and bonuses for teachers for high performing schools, or additional oversight from the state.
A school or district grade is withheld or revoked, and designated as incomplete, or an “I” grade, “if the data do not accurately represent the progress of the school or district,” according to the state’s 2018-19 Guide to Calculating School Grades, District Grades, and the Federal Percent of Points Index.
The most common reason why a school gets an “I” grade is because fewer than 95% of the school’s eligible student population was tested. A school can also get an “I” grade if the validity or integrity of the test administration or results are called into question “based upon allegations of test administration and security violations.”
“Upon conclusion of the review and investigation and a determination by the department that the data accurately represent the progress of the school or district, the department will assign a letter grade to the school or district,” the guide says.
Lillie C. Evans Elementary near Gladeview also had its 2018 and 2019 grades withheld. That school was given a B and C grade, respectively, in that April 6 letter. Those revised grades have been posted online.