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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

The hammer is coming



It's do or die for three Hillsborough County schools.

Middleton High, Franklin Middle Magnet and Sulphur Springs Elementary could all be shut down or converted into charter schools if they don't show substantial improvements in FCAT scores, and soon, according to the details of a state plan announced this afternoon.

The heavy sanctions stem from a new "differentiated accountability" system that meshes Florida's grading system with federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings earlier this month, the new, state-designed system is more nuanced than No Child, which would have required hundreds of high-poverty Florida schools to "restructure" this year because they repeatedly failed to meet federal standards. Under the new system, those schools have instead been placed into one of five categories, which bring escalating levels of oversight by district and state officials.

Ericjsmith "We have dramatically changed the way we focus on these schools," Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith said during a conference call with reporters today.

Statewide, 13 schools fall into the most severe category, "intervene," because they earned a D or F grade this year; have more than 65 percent of their students scoring below grade level in reading and/or math; and have failed to increase the percentage of students scoring at level in reading and/or math since 2003.

All three Hillsborough schools in that category earned D's this year. The only district with more was Miami-Dade, with four.

Now those schools must submit a plan by Nov. 1 to either shut down, period, or shut down and re-open as charter schools, under private management or under district management. They still have one chance left: If the schools make "significant progress" (earn a C grade or higher and make progress towards meeting the federal requirements), they will be released from intervention status.

Around Tampa Bay, 28 schools in Hillsborough, 16 in Pinellas, seven in Pasco and five in Hernando fall into one of the new categories. To find out which ones fall where, see this list. To read more about what they'll be required to do, click here.

- Ron Matus, state education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:51am]


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