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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

State help isn't helping Lacoochee Elementary, Pasco superintendent says

Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning is frustrated with the Florida Department of Education.

The department has had a differentiated accountability advisory team offering assistance to Lacoochee Elementary School for two years. Yet the school has shown little improvement in its student performance, as measured by state assessments.

The DA team's own year-end assessment points out numerous areas of concern that remain at the isolated, rural northeast Pasco school, which appears on track for its third consecutive D grade from the state. (Another round of FCAT results are due today, which will give more insights.) Among the team's findings:

Reading: Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) Reading Comprehension Data indicate that 71% of first grade students and 43 percent of second grade students are reading below the target passage level.  FAIR data indicate students are demonstrating growth throughout the year; however, FAIR Probability of Success data suggest only 17 percent of third grade and 20 percent of fourth grade students are at low risk for passing the FCAT with 33 percent of third grade, 27 percent of fourth grade, and 12 percent of fifth grade students at high risk for not passing the FCAT.

Mathematics: Pre and post assessment data indicate students are showing growth; however, district Benchmark data indicate 84 percent second grade students, 91 percent of third grade students, 91 percent of fourth grade students, and 64 percent of fifth grade students are not meeting proficiency expectations.

Science: District science assessments indicate 66 percent of second grade students, 94 percent of third grade students, 98 percent of fourth grade students, and 73 percent of fifth grade students are not meeting proficiency expectations.

The school, Browning says, has done what the state recommended. He wants to know whether the state will be held accountable for the limited improvements in the same way that the school and district are taking the responsibility. Already, teachers are losing their jobs and the school community is stressing out as the district works to overhaul Lacoochee because of another state mandate.

In a letter to education commissioner Tony Bennett, Browning argued that the department should acknowledge its own failure and step back to let the district — under his new leadership team — fix things itself.

"We realize the enormity of the task ahead of us but are confident that we are capable of taking the necessary steps to set Lacoochee on the path to academic success," Browning wrote.

Bennett responded that state law didn't allow him to pull out, but said he would look to see how the department might improve its assistance model.

See their letters here. See our story here.

What do you see as the proper relationship between districts and the state when a school persistently struggles?

[Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 6:11am]


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