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Judging and Managing High Schools: News from Florida and Rhode Island

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Florida's state board of education approved a new way of evaluating high schools, which gives less weight to state test scores.

Under the new system, approved earlier this week, letter grades assigned to high schools for Florida's report cards will be based only half on how well students perform on the FCAT, and how much improvement they make on that test. The other half of the grade will be based on graduation rates, how many students take advanced coursework, and students' readiness for college. Grades for Florida high schools used to be based only on their FCAT scores. An interesting development, not only for those who think standardized testing should play a less pivotal role in accountability, but for those interested in pegging high school performance evaluations to whether students are finishing school, and whether they are finishing ready for college.

Providence, R.I., recently took steps to get all of its high schools on the same curriculum page. All 10 schools now have to use the same math and science curriculum, and will have to do likewise soon with English and social studies. Students, as well, will have to toe the line: all of them will have to take the same sequence of math and science courses. All this is an attempt to respond to a problem that's much complained about not just in Providence, but nationwide: that Algebra 2 at School A, for instance, doesn't match the rigor or content of Algebra 2 at School B.

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The rationalization of curriculum across schools and districts is the result of increasing bureaucratic control from the center. But more importantly, it marks a step towards the regimentation of citizenry as well. The Prussians would be proud.

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