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State oversight continues at Central, Hernando high schools after FCAT gains fall short

BROOKSVILLE — Two of Hernando County's high schools will have continued state oversight after failing to make enough improvements last year in standardized test scores.

But the drastic measure of changing the administration at the schools is not likely to happen, a district official said Thursday.

Central and Hernando high schools did not make enough gains this year to keep from moving up to the next tier in the state's new differentiated accountability plan.

The accountability system was already in place for Title I schools that had not made adequate gains, but Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill last year making it apply to every public school in the state.

The plan is meant to marry federal and state accountability systems and puts struggling schools in one of five tiers based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. The higher the tier, the more intensive the strategies and requirements to help improve a school.

Sixteen of Hernando's 21 schools are on one of the five tiers this year, meaning they will have to take some action. Five schools, including Hernando and Central, are on the "Correct II" tier.

But because the two high schools scored D's in the state's A Plus Plan for the last two years, they have to take more intensive steps.

Among the required strategies set forth by the state Department of Education:

• The state, with help from the district, reviews and possibly replaces the schools' leadership teams and teachers "who have not contributed to learning gains." The principal must have "a clear record of turning around a similar school."

• The state reviews, approves and monitors the budgets and so-called school improvement plan.

• No teachers who receive less than a satisfactory performance evaluation would be permitted to work at a school.

• The schools must have reading, math and/or science coaches on staff to model lessons and analyze data.

• The district would pay administrators more for raising student achievement levels.

At Central and Hernando, though, some of this progress is already under way, said Diane Dannemiller, the district's supervisor of federal programs.

State officials have visited both schools and are monitoring school improvement plans, Dannemiller said. Reading coaches are already in place.

"A lot of the steps have already been done," she said.

The state requires more extensive leadership changes when a school reaches the top tier, dubbed "Intervene" status.

Hernando High, like many schools in the district since superintendent Wayne Alexander's arrival two years ago, has already had a change in leadership.

Ken Pritz, a veteran educator and administrator in the district, was tapped by Alexander to take over for Betty Harper last year. All three assistant principals were new to the school in 2008.

Pritz couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

Dennis McGeehan has been at the helm at Central High since 1996. But other assistant principals are new to the school, and the state has said that a principal change is not necessary there, Dannemiller said.

McGeehan didn't return a message Thursday. But he pointed out last week that the school has improved since last year and that the school would have earned a C if its bottom 25 percent of students had shown just a little more improvement.

Alexander did not return calls.

Powell, West Hernando and Parrott middle schools are also on the Correct II list but scored A's or B's last year.

The Hernando district's status should be put into context, Dannemiller said: More than 2,400 schools are on one of the five tiers this year.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

State oversight continues at Central, Hernando high schools after FCAT gains fall short 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 7:46pm]
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