A weekend interview with Anclote High School students
This year Anclote High School in Holiday became Pasco County's first F-rated school. A brand new school, it had yet to create a campus culture before the first rating, based on FCAT scores but also on new criteria such as graduation rates, which Anclote did not have. We wondered what effect a failing mark had on the school morale. So we headed to the school this past week to talk to students, teachers and parents about their views. Here are excerpts from reporter Jeff Solochek's conversations with the students.
The school grade came. I want to know what it meant to you. Was it demoralizing? Was it something that brought you together? Or what?
Jesse Galati, sophomore: When we got the F, we were a new school. It was our first year. We couldn't expect to rise right up to an A in class. We didn't have seniors. That's one thing. And however many kids we had, it's like a new country. When America started out, it wasn't the world power that we are now. Right? We were a small group of 13 little colonies. We grew. And as a first-year school, we couldn't expect to rise right up to a world power meeting the standards of the Gulfs and the Mitchells that have been here a while. The cool thing about our group is, we are together. It took us a while, because we all came from either middle school or other high schools. It took us a while to morph together. But over time we came to be more family. It's kind of crazy in a sense, it's all mushy-gushy, but we all have each other's back. We're all Anclote, and that's how we look at things.
Is that true for everybody?
Sean Wood, junior: I came from Maryland. ... In my old school pretty much nobody cared whether you passed or failed. It all depended on the choices that you made. And like if you had a late assignment, they just gave you a big fat zero and you failed. When I moved down here, I went from having all F's to having A's and B's my first week here. And it was because my teachers actually cared and they helped me. ... Everybody here at Anclote, all the teachers here, I notice that they care about you and they're not just going to let you sit there and fail. ... When I heard this was an F school, I didn't believe it. Because that's not what I noticed. I love this school. This is the only high school that I've been to that I can say that I like.
What about those of you who came here from Mitchell? Is it noticeably different? And in what way?
Jessica Fernandez, senior: There is a lot of people here. But it isn't overcrowded and you don't feel like a little fish in a huge pond.
Chris Sorrick, sophomore: I definitely feel like the teachers care a lot more. I've always gotten straight A's, and even at Mitchell I struggled a little bit because there's only so much you can do. You are going to need help. And these teachers make themselves a lot more available than at my previous school. I feel like they're always there for you and if you need something they're more than happy to stay and help, and work around your schedule, not just theirs. It definitely works out.
Haile Noto, sophomore: When we received the F, we got the statistics, they were accurate. But we didn't have seniors. So that was one big, giant piece. And the grade we deserved was an A. Because we all came together. Even though we all formed a melting pot from every school, I believe that we deserved an A for effort. But the statistics show that we need to boost our status, I guess. But I don't believe that we deserved an F.
Jaron Jammer, junior: I'd say, coming from Gulf High School, this school has nothing to worry about. Gulf High School appeals to social and more sports, I'd say, than anything else. But here, academically, everything is so inclined. I've got teachers just showing me things I never thought of trying. English, math. Any subject. I came from F's to A's, just dramatically I've changed because of the positive attitude and great teachers. I think we deserve a better grade.
You've said the teachers are all caring. But did they change? Did they start focusing more on the test? FCAT is coming up in a few weeks. Do you feel like everything is just FCAT all the time?
Jesse Galati: At the beginning of last year, the first year the school opened, we started up and I remember a couple of weeks before school started we were still trying to get books in classrooms, trying to get materials spread around. It was extremely difficult when things aren't always to their full potential in the classroom. ... Coming into this year, we are finally set, everything is set to go. Just looking at our FCAT Writes statistics, we had 91 percent of our sophomore attendance alone. We are growing. We are getting there. ... Coming into this year, I'm looking at some of my classes, and it's a totally different mindset. The curriculum is set, we all know what we are doing and in specific classes of mine we are able to fly through material quicker because the teachers have all the stuff, we're covering what we need to cover, and we're going on. ...
Haile Noto: I believe the F did take a toll on our administration and teaching. They definitely have more planning structured. I'll talk to my Spanish teacher and I'll be like, 'I'm going to miss Thursday because I have an SRA. So what are we doing? Can I get my makeup work?' She's like, 'Oh yeah, let me look at my calendar.' And they're already planned for the next week to teach us what we need to learn. FCAT is coming up. And I don't feel as stressed as I did in middle school. Last year, it wasn't as bad being a freshman. This year they are trying to get our statistics up and everything is running smoothly so far. I am kind of stressed because FCAT is on my birthday. ...
All you sophomores, this is the one. Have the teachers or counselors or parents even made a big deal about it? Like, 'We can't be an F again, it's on your shoulders' kind of thing? Does that ever come up at all?
Chris Sorrick: I would say they put stress on it, but they never made you feel like it's all on you, like if you fail you just threw all our work under the bus. No. I don't think they've put really any pressure on you. They took the pressure and put it on their own shoulders, I think. They took it and took the liberty themselves to make sure they did the best they could and they did every possible technique or what not to make us pass. I never got the vibe from them that it's all on my shoulders, at all. ...
Jesse Galati: Like Chris said, they took it on their shoulders and let it down to us pieces at a time, not a truckload all at once. That was pretty major. ...
Conner Caldwell, sophomore: It seems like a lot of schools I know, they focus on the grade. I know that's our focus here at Anclote, but the teachers don't make it seem that, 'Oh, it's all up to you guys so we can get a good grade.' They really want us to pass. It's not like they want us to pass for the good grade, they want us to pass so we can move on with our lives, so we can be successful in our lives. It's because of that personal experience we have with each teacher.