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School grades hold steady statewide; Pinellas results mixed

Despite generally tougher tests put in place this year, grades remained relatively stable statewide for middle and elementary schools, according to results released today by the Florida Department of Education.

More than three-quarters of schools received an A or B, with the number of A-rated elementary schools growing by 82 and the number of F-schools dropping from 44 to 31.

Woodlawn in St. Petersburg climbed to a C.

"My heart dropped to my stomach," principal Karen Russell said about hearing the news at 7:30 a.m. Her staff whooped when she told them. "They were pointing to goose bumps on their arms, tears welling up," she said. "It's just a nice pat on the back and confirmation of what we're doing."

"Our teachers, principals and school district leaders deserve tremendous credit this year for answering the call of higher standards with resounding success," interim Education Commissioner John L. Winn said in a statement. "Over the last decade we have continued to raise the achievement bar to ensure our students are learning the skills they need to be successful in today's economy, and every time that bar has been raised our schools have redoubled their efforts to the direct benefit of children."

The vast majority of schools in Tampa Bay also earned A's and B's. Here's how it played out:

PINELLAS: More elementary schools jumped a letter grade than dropped one, while the opposite was true with middle schools.

Meanwhile, the district's three F-rated elementary schools - Woodlawn, Lakewood and Fairmount Park - all improved their grades, but two other schools - Melrose and Maximo - fell into the F category.

"In Pinellas, we had significant improvements, especially in our struggling schools," Superintendent Julie Janssen said in a written statement.

Last year among elementary schools, Pinellas had 32 A's, 19 B's, 14 C's, five D's and three F's. This year, the numbers are 38, 11, 18, four and two, respectively.

"We're obviously proud that we're no longer considered a failing school," said Fairmount Park principal Cooper Dawson. "We're headed in the right direction and looking forward to continuing that way."

The news for Pinellas middle schools was more mixed.

Two schools improved their grades, including John Hopkins, which was hammered by a wave of brawls and arrests during the 2009-10 school year. It went from C to B. But six others fell, including Azalea and Pinellas Park. Both earned D's.

Stephanie Joyner, director of middle schools, said most of the drop-off was tied to a plunge in eighth-grade FCAT scores in math, which in turn was tied to a district push last year to put thousands of additional students into Algebra I - a class many of them would not have taken until high school.

HILLSBOROUGH: All three of the district's traditional elementary schools with F grades last year — Just, Miles and B.T. Washington — improved their ranking.

Two other schools jumped to A status: Shaw Elementary, which earned a C last year, and Advantage Middle charter school, which started the year as a D school.

"I knew we worked hard, but getting an A was definitely a surprise and a happy accomplishment to know that all of our work paid off," said Shaw principal Holly Saia.

But two other schools tumbled in the opposite direction. Riverhills Elementary slipped from C to F, while Mount Pleasant Middle charter school dropped from A to F.

PASCO: Schools saw some improvement overall — the district raw score rose to a high B — and several schools also had better results even with the higher standards this year. Among them:

* Four schools made an A and also adequate yearly progress under federal standards — Seven Oaks, Trinity and Wesley Chapel elementary schools, and Imagine School at Land O'Lakes charter school.

* Four schools went from a C to an A — Connerton, Woodland and Shady Hills elementary schools, and Imagine School.

* Seven high schools saw their total points increase by at least 15, including Anclote High, the district's only F school, which rose from 392 to 473.

"We did well," said district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli. "We are continuing to improve."

On the flip side, Pasco had three D schools and one F, Gulf Highlands Elementary. It's the first F Pasco has ever had for an elementary school and its second F ever.

HERNANDO: The district saw an overall drop in performance, falling from an A to a B, but no school fell too far.

Of the district's 17 elementary, middle and K-8 schools, eight dropped one letter grade. Three of those -- Moton Elementary, Deltona Elementary and Fox Chapel Middle schools -- fell to a C.

Eight schools maintained their grades, all As and Bs except for one C, Eastside Elementary in Brooksville.

Powell Middle School was the only school to improve, rising one level to an A.

To see school grades for the state: http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/default.asp

School grades hold steady statewide; Pinellas results mixed 06/30/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 4:41pm]
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