Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School grades drop around Tampa Bay, statewide

After a few punishing months of tense headlines, disappointing FCAT scores and a growing public outcry about testing, Florida's school grades were as predicted Wednesday: Far fewer A schools and far more D's and F's.

Fewer than 10 percent of schools statewide improved their grade this year.

"I am really, extremely disappointed," said John Haley, principal of Franklin Boys Preparatory School in Hillsborough County, which received a D. "People look at a school grade and think it is going to be an accurate reflection of teaching and learning at a school, and it absolutely is not."

Elementary and middle schools received their grades Wednesday. High school grades will be released later this year.

Across the Tampa Bay region, about 140 schools earned A's — down from 184 last year — while 65 schools earned D's and F's. Last year, just 25 schools fell into those bottom ranks.

In Hillsborough, the number of D schools more than tripled, jumping from nine last year to 31 this year. In Pinellas, D schools more than doubled, from eight to 17. Results like these prompted a response from even those who have been less vocal about earlier disappointing scores. Florida has an "accountability system in dire need of review and repair," Pinellas County superintendent John Stewart said.

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson warned parents last week that school grades would drop because of unprecedented changes to the state's accountability system. This year, the state raised the bar to pass its new, harder FCAT, causing a decline in test scores. It also started counting the overall performance of students in special education and English-language learner programs, rather than just their learning gains.

Despite those changes, some schools performed better while others managed to hold to a good grade. Pasco and Hernando schools, smaller districts, had no F schools.

Terri Mutell, principal of Pasco's Marlowe Elementary until recently, said she was "incredibly proud" that the hard work students and teachers put forth brought the school from a D to a C.

"It's good to know that, yes, by somebody else's measure, what we did was working," said Mutell, now principal at nearby Chasco Elementary School. "I won't lament a low grade. I won't celebrate a high grade. There are so may variables that go into it, and there always have been."

In Pinellas, Westgate Elementary vaulted from a C to an A. Curlew Creek and Plumb elementaries improved from B's to A's. And in Hillsborough, Riverhills Elementary improved its F to a D, while Lomax Elementary raised its C to an A.

In Pasco, Gulf Highlands Elementary, the district's sole F school a year ago, improved to a C.

To protect schools from dramatic drops, state education officials agreed that schools wouldn't drop more than one letter grade, regardless of performance, and suspended some provisions of the grading formula. After an unexpected and dramatic decline in writing scores, the state Board of Education also dropped the passing score on that exam.

To prevent a drop of more than one grade, the state simply padded schools' scores. In some cases, one or two points made the difference between a D or an F.

On Wednesday, critics blasted the move as grade inflation, saying it had rendered the scores meaningless.

Bob Schaeffer, spokesman for FairTest, a group that opposes high-stakes testing, said the grades "have as much validity as readings from a Ouija board."

Andy Ford, president of the state teachers union, said the scores were of "little value" and that many teachers "don't have faith in the arbitrary manner in which the state calculates the grades."

Robinson defended the move, calling this a "year of transition." He said it was only fair to give schools time to adjust, particularly since many of the changes were announced in the middle of the school year.

"They don't in any way show an inflation of grades. They show a transition," he said.

He also noted that the vast majority of schools wouldn't have dropped more than one letter grade.

About 388 schools — about 15 percent of 2,588 schools graded this year — benefited, Robinson said. Of those, 57 were in Tampa Bay. For some of those schools, the difference would have been dramatic.

In Hillsborough, West Tampa Elementary would have fallen from an A to an F; instead it earned a B. In Pinellas, John Hopkins Middle School earned a C, but would have dropped from a B to an F. Campbell Park Elementary was adjusted by a single point, moving it up to a D.

Robinson said the school grading system had "matured" from its beginning in 1999, and said the changes, though difficult, would prepare students for college and careers, as well as create an easier transition in a few years to Common Core, a state-led effort to create national academic standards.

"It's been tough, but Florida's going to find itself in a better place than many states in the future," he said.

Many superintendents and other school leaders, however, said the state needs to re-examine its testing model.

"We can explain all we want to about why we've seen a drop in school grades this year," Stewart said, "but bottom line, we absolutely must return the focus to our students and what's best for them."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek.

School grades

State
2011 2012
A 1,481 1,124
B 458 667
C 460 510
D 117 238
F 31 47
Schools that would have dropped more than one letter grade: 388
Hillsborough
2011 2012
A 96 76
B 43 46
C 55 54
D 9 31
F 2 3*
Schools that would have dropped more than one letter grade: 33
Pinellas
2011 2012
A 50 39
B 13 24
C 25 15
D 8 17
F 2 6
Schools that would have dropped more than one letter grade: 12
Hernando
2011 2012
A 4 3
B 9 6
C 4 6
D 0 3
F 0 0
Schools that would have dropped more than one letter grade: 1
Pasco
2011 2012
A 34 22
B 10 17
C 18 21
D 3 6
F 1 0
Schools that would have dropped more than one letter grade: 11

*Pepin Middle School, a Hillsborough County charter, was incorrectly listed as an F Wednesday, according to school district officials.

Some schools received grades in 2012, but not in 2011.

Source: Florida Department of Education

School grades drop around Tampa Bay, statewide 07/11/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 12:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Reschedule, regroup, recharge: Ways to spend the weekend after Irma

    Features

    Well, it's safe to say some of your recent weekend plans got disrupted.

  2. Pasco School Board suggests moving slowly with Ridgewood High

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County School Board members appeared Tuesday to put the brakes on an aggressive plan to transform Ridgewood High School into a technical education campus by next fall, suggesting that even if it is a good idea, slowing down will make it better.

    Pasco School Board member Steve Luikart, right, discusses options for Ridgewood High School as board member Alison Crumbley looks on. [Photo by Jeffrey S. Solochek]
  3. Worker fixing cable line in Feather Sound after Hurricane Irma dies after fall from ladder

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — A 53-year-old worker repairing a cable line in the Feather Sound area on Saturday fell from his ladder and died, the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office said.

  4. 5 things under $5 Sept. 21-27: Snooty memorial, free Glazer Museum, actor Jackie Cruz, Talk Like a Pirate Day

    Events

    1 Remembering Snooty: This public memorial was postponed by Hurricane Irma, but on Sunday the community gets a chance to honor Snooty, the beloved 69-year-old manatee at Bradenton's South Florida Museum. The museum will be open to the public for free for a day of remembrance from noon to 5 p.m. 201 10th St. W, …

    7/15/2011 - Bradenton, FL - Snooty, the worlds oldest manatee on record, will celebrate his 63rd birthday on Saturday, at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. Staff Photo by JIM HOCKETT
  5. 'Raging Bull' boxer Jake LaMotta dies at 95

    Obituaries

    Jake LaMotta, the former champion boxer whose life was immortalized by Robert DeNiro in the 1980 film Raging Bull, died Tuesday at age 95.

    Jake LaMotta and his fiance Denise arrive for the world premier of the critically acclaimed boxing drama "Ring Of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story" at the Beekman Theater in New York in 2005. LaMotta, whose life was depicted in the film "Raging Bull," died Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at a Miami-area hospital from complications of pneumonia. He was 95. [Associated Press]