By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - It came as no surprise when individual school grades were released in July that the overall grade from the Department of Education for the St. Lucie County School District would drop as well.
And it did, falling to a "C" from a four-year streak of earning a "B." The district's grade was released on July 13. Overall, 39 of the state's 67 school districts dropped a letter grade.
But both the district and the state are quick to point out that the grade received this year cannot and should not be compared to prior years, because the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test that was used in the majority of the measurement is a completely new test, both in structure and standards.
"One cannot compare two different devices as if they are the same," said Michael Lannon, St. Lucie County superintendent of schools.
"This is a benchmark year for this new test and we should focus on the depth of the needs of the children who did not score as well as they hoped."
In a Florida Department of Education video that was released with the district rankings, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said the issue is complicated.
"We're well aware that there are social and economic factors that influence how we deliver education to children and the impact it will have," he said.
"Having this annual ranking is to see how districts move from year to year, to see how points will change and to have a conversation about what we can do as citizens to support our public school systems."
The main argument against test scores is they don't reflect factors such as poverty or racial diversity.
"Children of economic advantage generally outperform their less-advantaged peers everywhere in America," said Mr. Lannon.
"Poverty and its implications for health, nutrition and educated family members to assist children at home have enormous weight on testing. Even more when the test results are manipulated for political reasons."