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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

School grades up, AYP down

Potter Elementary School principal Tracye Brown, seated, checks out the school's state grade this morning while parent liaison Sylvia Knight-Brown, right, celebrates with assistant principal Kimberly Thompson. Looking on are Sharon Waite, left, a writing resource teacher, and secretary Klisa Smith. The school found out it had improved from an F to a C. [CARRIE PRATT | Times]

Florida schools posted a record number of A's and B's this year, but a growing majority of them also failed to meet federal standards under the No Child Left Behind Act, according to data released by the state Department of Education this morning.

Of 2,889 schools graded, 1,583 earned A's (55 percent) and 543 earned B's (19 percent). Meanwhile, the number of D and F schools dropped from 302 to 199. To see grades for individual schools, click here.

The improved grades are not a huge surprise, given statewide FCAT scores that rose in every grade and subject except fifth-grade reading. Students made especially strong gains in ninth- and tenth-grade reading, long a drag on high school grades. High schools also may have benefited from a tweak in the grading formula.

Like grades on a student report card, school grades can bring joy or shame, reward or sanctions. The grades, now handed out for a tenth straight year, are based on FCAT scores in reading, math, writing and science.

Schools that make A grades or improve their grades get a modest pot of reward money that totaled $129.3 million last year. Those that make poor grades are branded with the stigma and subject to increased oversight from the state.

Also released this morning: How Florida schools rate by federal standards.

Seventy-six percent failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, up from 67 percent last year.

No Child mandates a series of escalating consequences for low-income schools that fall short. And this year, hundreds of Florida schools might have faced the possibility of restructuring. But U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings agreed last week to let Florida take a more nuanced approach, meaning many of those schools won't be in hot water after all.

Both Florida's grading system and the No Child ratings are based on FCAT scores, but they analyze the scores in different ways. Under the state system, a school's overall scores might be modest, but if its struggling students are making gains, the school can still earn an A or B. Under the federal system, a school's overall scores might be excellent, but if minority, low-income or disabled students fall short, the whole school is deemed in need of improvement.

Vincent Velez of Oldsmar, 9, reacts as Sunset Hills Elementary School fourth grade teacher Christine Crawford reads a book to him Tuesday at Pinellas County schools' summer reading camp at San Jose Elementary in Dunedin. Vincent was among 102 students attending the intensive reading program, which meets from 8 a.m. to noon five days a week. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:49am]


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