Many Hernando County schools continued to slip this year in the face of more stringent state academic standards.
Of the district's 18 elementary, middle and K-8 schools, 10 dropped one letter grade, according to information released Wednesday by the Florida Department of Education. High school grades are not yet available.
Three schools fell from a C to a D. Last year there were no D's among the county's elementary, middle and K-8 schools.
"You never like to see grades fall," said Hernando schools superintendent Bryan Blavatt. "You can't be pleased overall with school grades dropping, but it wasn't unexpected."
Six schools maintained the same grade. Chocachatti Elementary School was the only school to jump a grade level, improving from a B to an A.
Winding Waters K-8 earned a B in its first year.
State educators had been bracing parents for this news.
Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson warned parents last week: "You may notice that some schools have lower grades than last year." The state changed its scoring, standards and tests, all of which play a role in how the grades are calculated.
Still, it might not be easy for some Hernando parents to accept.
Three Hernando schools earned A's, six earned B's, six earned C's and three earned D's.
Fox Chapel Middle School and Deltona and Eastside elementary schools dropped to a D. Eastside had been an A school as recently as the 2008-09 school year. Deltona and Fox Chapel were B schools in 2009-10.
The overall drop in Hernando's grades was similar to what occurred statewide.
Across Florida, there were 1,124 A schools, 667 B schools, 510 C schools, 238 D schools and 47 F schools. A year ago, the numbers were 1,481 A's, 458 B's, 460 C's, 117 D's and 31 F's. Looking at it another way, that's a 24 percent decrease in A schools and a doubling of D schools, with nearly a 50 percent increase in B schools.
Blavatt said he was encouraged to see that the district continues to have A schools and that several B schools maintained that level.
He said it was difficult to compare this year with past years.
"The thing that's kind of tough about this is they keep changing the process and the scoring for schools," he said. "I think it's important to see long range."
He was especially pleased with Brooksville Elementary, which has a high percentage of low-income students and maintained its B.
"I look at that school and think they're doing something right," he said.
This year's drop follows a similar slide last year, when eight schools dropped one letter grade.
To lessen the blow of dramatic changes to Florida's school grading system this year, the state Board of Education decided this spring that no school would be allowed to drop more than one letter, regardless of its score.
Across the state, 388 schools were kept from dropping by two grades or more, Robinson told reporters Wednesday.
In Hernando, only Powell Middle School would have dropped by more than one grade. The school received a B but actually earned only enough points for a C.
Staff writers Jeffrey S. Solochek and Cara Fitzpatrick contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.