With dozens of changes in just the past three years, the formula behind Florida’s A-to-F school grading system has been criticized as a confusing mess. But there’s been at least one constant in Miami-Dade and Broward results: The wealthiest schools never get Fs, and schools with high populations of poor students face an uphill battle to even get a C.
The trend is visible through a decade-plus ofschool grade results, dating back to the first grades issued in 1999.
A Miami Herald analysis of this year’s elementary and middle school grades (high school grades aren’t available yet) shows:
• Although high poverty rates don’t necessarily doom a school to a subpar grade, D and F schools are overwhelmingly serving students from poor neighborhoods, and the few schools that do overcome poverty to achieve an A are outliers. (There were nine such schools this year, all in Miami-Dade).
• Of the 209 schools in Miami-Dade and Broward with at least 90 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch, 78 percent received a grade of C or worse. Roughly 39 percent of these high-poverty schools received a D or F.
• Of the 43 local schools with much lower poverty rates (30 percent or fewer students receiving free or reduced lunch), 86 percent received an A, and none received a D or F.
As the school reform movement that created letter grades faces a growing backlash from parents and teachers — and U.S. child poverty rates continue to rise — the income-driven distribution of the grades has prompted an uncomfortable question: Are grades measuring how well a school teaches kids, or are they simply a reflection of how much money the parents of students have?