FHP Finds America's Most
-- POLICE PAGE
Publisher Jeff M. Hardison accepts a paddle trophy on Tuesday (June 18) from
Keith Maynard, president of the Wild Hog Canoe Race organization. The paddle
trophy was to ‘Jeff & Sharon Hardison’ as thanks for their continued
support of the canoe race that helps raise money for the Levy County
Association for Retarded Citizens. Maynard has been an instrumental part of the
Wild Hog Canoe Race since the mid-1980s. He has helped with organizing the
event as well as the building of the famous paddle-shaped trophies. Maynard is
a four-time champion of the race in the Recreation Class (1987, 1988, 1989, and
2008) in addition to three, second place finishes in the Experienced Class
(2010, 2011, and 2012) and a third place finisher in the Recreation Class
(1990). ‘Sharon and I are glad to have helped the Wild Hog Canoe Race again
this year,’ Hardison said. ‘The main thing is helping the clients of LARC, but
we love seeing all those people competing and having fun with canoes
Photo by Daniel Maynard
Robert Hastings blasts
state grading of schools
Among the people present for the meeting Tuesday (June 18) are from left Levy
County School Board members (from left) Paige Brookins, Rick Turner, Robert
Philpot and Cameron Asbell, and Superintendent of Schools Robert O. Hastings.
School Board member Chris Cowart is in Washington, D.C., with the Levy County
Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 18, 2013
BRONSON – Dr. Patrick Wnek, the
director of curriculum for the Levy County School District joined
Superintendent of Schools Robert Hastings as they told the School Board on
Tuesday morning (June 18) about some issues with schools being graded.
Dr. Wnek provided a report that showed Levy County
schools showed gains in test results for mathematics in third through fifth
grades; in reading for ninth and tenth grades; and in science for fifth grade.
The district exceeded the state average on end-of-course exams in algebra 1,
geometry, biology and U.S. History, Wnek said.
The state has not released a timetable, however, for
the announcement of new school grades, Wnek noted.
School grade rules and FCAT cut scores have caused
concern for schools throughout Florida, Wnek said. Most recently, elementary
schools all over Florida have experienced the greatest impact by the state’s
increasing of grade level cut scores. Elementary schools will bear the brunt in
the coming year, he said.
To understand the measurement and evaluation of
students learning in Florida today requires more than a layperson can grasp.
And, according to Superintendent of Schools Hasting, the grades given to
schools are arbitrary.
For instance, The Florida Department of Education last
year had a rule to allow a school to be dropped by only one letter grade per
year. That rule has expired. Today, a school may be dropped two or more letter
grades from its previous ranking, Wnek said.
So the school that showed a “C” last year when it had
actually dropped to a “D” as a result of the methods used by the state to award
grades to schools, may be listed as a “D” or an “F” school this year, if the
measurement presents that as the grade.
The new cut scores are going to have a dramatic effect
on every school in Florida, Wnek said. While there were 52 to 54 percent of the
schools rated as an “A” school last year that will drop to the low 30 percent
range in number of “A” schools this year, he predicted.
Administrators know how hard the students work to
learn and they know the effort put forth by teachers to help the students
learn, Wnek said. As lower grades are announced for Levy County and other
school districts, Wnek said, it will create concerns in communities around the
By inflating the writing scores last year, Wnek said,
due to the low scores from tests, an improvement by schools this year will be
Hastings pulled no punches.
He spent Wednesday evening, Thursday and Friday at a
statewide meeting in Tampa for superintendents with Florida Commissioner of
Education Dr. Tony Bennett. There were many matters that needed more
discussion, Hastings said, but the focus of the conferences was on school
One policy that superintendents disagreed with the
State Board of Education about was school boards having to pay tuition to
community colleges for public high school students taking dual enrollment
classes, Hastings said.
“This was a tremendous hit to our budget,” he
It is unfair to support community colleges “on the
backs of the k-12 system,” Hastings said. There was an idea shared to bill the
community colleges with costs the public high schools experience due to dual
enrollment, Hastings said, such as sending them an invoice for the cost of
counseling those students, and the added expense of paperwork required for
Some community college presidents were sympathetic to
the burden being placed on public schools, Hastings said. College of Central
Florida President James D. Henningsen, Ed.D., was understanding of the issue,
“Some of them were very unsympathetic to the K-12
system,” he added.
Beyond this issue and several others, schools’ grades
became the topic that kept being discussed, he said.
“Superintendents across the state are livid over what
the State Board of Education is doing to the public school system as far as
school grades go,” Hastings said.
For instance, in Hillsborough County, two elementary
schools received “F”s last year, and this year there are 20 elementary schools
projected to get “F”s in Hillsborough County, he said.
All five Levy County elementary school principals were
brought to tears, Hastings said, because of their projected grades.
“Those that normally receive ‘A’s, like Williston
Elementary, are projected for a ‘C,’ or an ‘A-B’ school going to a ‘C’ or a
‘D.’ It’s devastating for these principals that pour their hearts into
“School grades are something that is arbitrated,” he
continued. “I did say this to the commissioner, and to the governor and the
staff in a public forum as the superintendent. “
Hasting then shared a statement which many staff
members have heard him express before.
“The state can do whatever it wants to,” he said, “in
regard to school grades. They manipulate them however they want to manipulate
He went on to mention that in 1999, when school grades
started, there were seven public high schools in the state that were graded as
“A.” Ninety-two percent of all elementary schools made “A”s or “B”s that year,
he continued and 84 percent of all middle schools and combination schools made
“A”s or “B”s.
He said the state board of education then wanted to be
sure everyone “felt good” and “did wonderful.”
“Elementary teachers and principals thought they were
just gurus in teaching,” Hastings said, “because they were all ‘A’s and ‘B’s –
all over the state.”
After a few years, the state board of education
arranged it so the middle schools had a heavy set of high grades, he
continued. All of sudden the shift went to the middle schools, Hastings
said, and those schools’ grades went up.
Three years ago, the state decided to help high
schools with better grades. So the state leaders in education changed the
format to access school grades, he said.
“And now, high schools are doing well,” he said. “Our
high schools have done well the last three years in Levy County. And they will
continue to, until the state decides otherwise. But they can manipulate the
grades and make them so that as many schools pass, or as many schools don’t
pass, as what they want.”
Hastings expressed his opinion to Commissioner
“What I told the commissioner was that it was his
song,” Hastings said, “and he could make them dance however he wanted to make
(Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett is NOT
the singer who was born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on Aug. 3, 1926.)
“The grades (of schools) are arbitrarily chosen by the
state,” Hastings said.
Hastings said he put no stock in the grades awarded to
schools. However, he does put stock in the performance shown by students who
have learned with help from their teachers.
Test scores in relation to surrounding counties and to
similar rural counties, he said, and in relation to the state average, show the
county has some bright spots. The end-of-course exams reflect this, he
One example of this is Levy County’s third grade math
scores being in the top 10 of the state, he said.
However, there are some areas where students are not
performing at or above the state level, he said.
“I do not believe there is any reason for our
children, our students, to be performing below grade level,” he told the School
Board. “And these things have to be addressed. I’ve said this to you, and to
everybody else, education takes place in the classroom. It’s an interaction
between the student and the teacher.”
Areas where performance is below expectations must be
addressed, he said.
“It’s not about teacher evaluation or teacher performance
for pay,” Hastings said. “It’s about what are we doing to get our children
ready for their next step in life?”
Hastings pledged to take the needed steps to assure
that students will be able to perform adequately.
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