The Hillsborough County school district has topped another state list it would prefer not to be on.
It has 13 schools on Florida's newly released "persistently low performing" list, more than double the number of any other district.
That's down from 20 a year ago, signaling some progress among its most struggling schools. But it's significantly more than even Duval County, the only other district that came close to Hillsborough on the state's other annual list, that of lowest performing elementary schools.
Pinellas County has two schools on the "persistently low performing" list (Fairmount Park and Lakewood elementary schools), while Pasco and Hernando counties have none. Giants Miami-Dade and Broward counties have one each.
In state law, "persistently low performing" means having earned a school grade lower than a C for three consecutive years. While supporters of the state model say this helps them find schools most in need of improvement, critics of the system scorn it.
That's in part because of the consequences the label carries. In 2017, lawmakers created in the controversial HB 7069 a new system of charter schools they called "Hope," with financial support to open in communities with "persistently low performing" schools. (See Florida statute 1002.333.)
The Florida Board of Education began approving those charter providers in early 2018, with at least one looking for sites in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough officials have since announced another new initiative aimed at improving the district's most struggling schools.
The Hillsborough schools on the "persistently low performing list" share some characteristics. With the exception of one, they each have at least 75 percent students who are categorized as minority. Each of them also have 88 percent or more of students considered economically disadvantaged.
They are: Forest Hills, Sheehy, Kimbell, Thompson, Dover, Folsom, Foster, McDonald, Oak Park, Palm River, Robles and James elementary schools, and Sulphur Springs K-8.
The time for filing school grade appeals ends July 31.