Nearly half of Florida's high schools received an A grade for the 2011-12 school year, despite the implementation of a more rigorous graduation rate.
Preliminary grades released by the Florida Department of Education on Friday show 47 percent of high schools earned an A and 31 percent a B. The number of schools receiving an A jumped 16 percent, while the number receiving a B declined by the same amount.
Three schools were given an F, down from six in 2010-11.
The increase in the number of schools receiving an A came despite use of a new federally mandated, four-year graduation rate. This year's grades also incorporated a stricter calculation for college readiness based on performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
There were, however, several measures in place to ease the transition into the more difficult grading. No school, for example, could drop more than one grade letter, and three more schools would have received an F if that protection were not in place, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said. That will no longer be permitted when officials calculate grades for the current school year. They'll also use a higher bar for measuring writing proficiency and include geometry and biology performance.
Stewart could not say whether more schools would have scored lower if those measures were not held in abeyance.
"I can say that I think it will be more difficult to earn the same kinds of grades that we saw this year," she said.
This year's grades are also the first to include exceptional student education center schools for those with disabilities. Those schools had a choice of receiving either a school improvement rating based on learning gains or a grade based also on performance.
Of those that chose to receive a grade, one received a D and 10 received an F. Seventy-two schools chose to receive an improvement rating instead.
The states grades its high schools based on student performance on the FCAT as well as indicators of college readiness and participation in advanced classes. The scores released Friday are preliminary, as schools are given time to appeal the results.