Florida looking into Sumter County amid school grade manipulation accusations

The Florida Department of Education is investigating Sumter County’s public school district amid allegations of moving low-performing students so they don’t affect school grades.

News 6 obtained a letter Education Commissioner Manny Diaz sent to the chairman of the Sumter County School Board in March after receiving a tip from a viewer.

In it, Diaz tells Chair Brett Sherman the state received allegations that the school district has been “improperly withdrawing low-performing students from various public schools and enrolling them in “shell schools” in order to remove their statewide assessment results from the calculation of school grades.”

Diaz said the allegations claim Sumter County was manipulating grades as far back as the 2016-2017 school year.

The letter said Diaz has directed the Office of Inspector General to investigate the issue because he does not believe the district can investigate the charges with the “level of independence necessary to instill public confidence in the transparency and outcome of the investigation.”

Sumter County’s school district has received an A or B grade every year since 2010, according to FDOE records, with the exception of 2021 when the district, like many others, did not receive a grade.

Besides sending the letter, an FDOE spokesperson would not comment further on the investigation.

Sumter County Schools did send a statement Thursday evening:

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