HOLIDAY — Even before it got an F grade from the state, Anclote High School started looking for and implementing new and better ways to teach students.
"We knew this summer that our data was a concern," principal Monica Ilse said. "We actually put some things in place immediately."
The faculty received training in writing instruction, classroom management and technology use. They evaluated every student to determine needs and risks, and to begin developing strategies to reach them.
On Thursday, a team of school, district and state educators gathered to assess how far Anclote High has come.
For the most part, they liked what they saw.
"We're seeing nice change," said Danielle Campbell, reading coordinator for the state's regional differentiated accountability team, which is working with the school. "Obviously, we're not where we need to be yet. But we're not expecting that."
The school staff has high expectations, though. Stressed by the failing grade, many want to see a quick turnaround.
That had Elena Garcia, the district's Title I coordinator, a bit concerned.
"The thing that is worrying me is that everybody is so anxious to see growth to occur, that they're thinking it will happen overnight," Garcia said. "It takes time. But they're moving in the right direction and they have to stay the course."
A discussion on the school's testing and attendance data highlighted the highs and lows of the effort.
The school has seen rising numbers of students with stronger writing skills and increased science knowledge, assistant principals reported.
But large percentages of students still have not reached proficiency.
Teachers continue to work on implementing new strategies to engage students and get them up to speed.
The school's overall attendance rate has improved to nearly 98 percent. But within that, growing percentages of students have missed at least five days of a single class.
The administration implemented a new tardy policy last week to cope with this issue, and initial reports are that tardiness and skipping are down.
Classroom visits gave the teams more insight into how well the school is putting its action steps into practice.
Team members quietly walked into rooms, taking notes as they watched. They looked for evidence that students were writing and reading in every subject area, that the teachers involved students in meaningful discussions and that students used technology as appropriate.
Campbell left an economics course impressed with the way the teacher moved among teams of students as they did research to play a game about goods and services.
"You can tell they're thinking, they're talking, they're on topic, they're engaged," she said.
Assistant superintendent Tina Tiede praised the process that Anclote is going through, noting that its strategies will help other schools to improve as well.
"The strength of this is that it becomes systematic," Tiede said. "It gives everyone a common language and common focus."
So much so that three administrators from Hudson High School attended the session and were able to find ideas to take back to their school.
"We're here so we can learn and do things proactively," Hudson assistant principal Michelle Williams said, deeming the activity "great."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. Visit the Gradebook for more education news at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.