LARGO — Pinellas school officials need to look more closely at what's going on between low-performing students and their teachers, School Board member Mary Brown said Tuesday.
Brown expressed concern at a board workshop at the number of students who are not succeeding based on standardized test results even as she acknowledged there is more to a school than its Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test grade.
"We should be able to determine whether kids coming out of certain classrooms are continuing to have problems," Brown said. "We should be able to know if it is certain classrooms so we can give those teachers special help."
Board member Linda Lerner countered, saying demographics have changed at many schools since the district began assigning students closer to home.
Board members' remarks came during a presentation about the letter grades Pinellas schools received last week based on the FCAT.
Octavio Salcedo, the district's director of testing, began with the good news: As a district, Pinellas missed an A by only 2 points. There were more A schools than ever before, Salcedo said, and a handful improved two letter grades.
But among the roughly 30 elementary schools with the highest populations of poor students, only eight are not facing federal sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act, Salcedo said.
No middle schools, with the exception of the district's fundamental middles, made "adequate yearly progress" under federal guidelines.
Nine Pinellas high schools received D's this year, and Gibbs High in St. Petersburg became the district's first high school to receive an F. It's too soon to know what types of interventions the state will require of Gibbs, Salcedo said.
Ten of the district's 16 high schools lost a letter grade this year because they didn't make enough progress in reading with their lowest-performing students.
Salcedo told board members that principals already are looking at the relationship between teachers and low-performing students.
"I can't tell you how well it's working, but principals can pull up lists by teachers and see which kids made gains," Salcedo said. "Principals have a lot of information."
The idea may come up again later this week when superintendent Julie Janssen is scheduled to meet with high school principals to hammer out a more detailed plan for improving student performance.
In addition to continuing to monitor students performing at the lowest 25 percent, principals will:
• Look at incoming students to begin focusing on appropriate interventions.
• Research data on each student, including attendance and discipline statistics.
• Consider changes in staffing and scheduling.