Drastic differences in nation's report card versus state report card

TAMPA, Fla. - Hillsborough County is home to 27 high schools and according to the state's report card, more than half earned an "A," prompting the school superintendent to call a last minute press conference.

"Our high schools had the best results that we have ever had," said Mary Ellen Elia.

Mary Ellen Elia also glowed over a national test featured in a graphic presentation. She said the Trial Urban District Assessment found fourth and eighth graders in Hillsborough County excelled in math and reading. In fact, they earned the highest score in reading, beating out other cities like Boston and Chicago and then ranking among the highest in math.

"This year in 2013 we are reaffirming position that we are a district that is performing well in this national comparison," said Elia.

But those national results are far from the state's own results released earlier this year. Those results, including the entire district, showed a steady decline over the past four years, not just in Hillsborough but all surrounding counties. According to the state's report card, Hillsborough went from an "A" in 2010 falling to a "B" the next two years and then dropping to a "C" in 2013.

In addition, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Manatee counties all received "C"'s, many of those counties also falling year to year. Only Sarasota maintained an "A" grade.

"Maybe that points out that there are some questions with assessments and accountability system in Florida," said Elia. "The calculation is based on 245 schools and based on elementary and middle schools that only have a select number of categories that determines the grade and that is all based on the FCAT," she explained.

Elia is pushing for changes statewide and so is school board member Cindy Stuart.

"She has been very vocal and as well as this school board has been very vocal with the governor on how that is being calculated and what we want to see changed," said Stuart.

Changes are on the way. A spokesperson with the Department of Education said they are adopting a new assessment system next year and say that could affect the school's overall grade. It is being done because the state adopted a new standards.

But in the meantime, many principals of the "A" schools said the district should enjoy this victory and see it as a step in the right direction.

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