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Six Hernando school grades improve after re-evaluation

BROOKSVILLE — The text message came to Brooksville Elementary School principal Mary LeDoux on Sunday morning as she prepared for church.

It stopped her flat.

"Don't play with me; this isn't funny," she remembered saying out loud.

It was no joke: Brooksville Elementary is an A school. Not a B.

"It was really out of nowhere, and it was incredibly exciting," LeDoux said.

Over the weekend, the Hernando County school district learned that six of its schools had their grades revised upward by the Florida Department of Education.

Aside from Brooksville Elementary, West Hernando Middle and Weeki Wachee High moved from B's to A's. Moving from C's to B's were Westside, Spring Hill and Pine Grove elementary schools.

That means the district now has six A schools instead of three. There are also six B schools, 3 C schools and three D schools.

High school grades have yet to be released.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt was pleased with the increase in grades, but questioned the system.

"The whole thing is screwy," Blavatt said. "It's really hard to work under the conditions where you're never quite sure of what you're getting."

In a state where a lot is riding on school grades, he said he thinks it's incumbent on the state to get school districts good data.

"I don't mean to be critical. Certainly if the district were to miscalculate anything, they'd be all over us," he said.

Overall, the state increased the grades of 213 schools, including 116 from B to A, 55 from C to B, 35 from D to C and seven from F to D. That's 8 percent of the schools statewide.

That includes 18 Pinellas County schools, 17 Hillsborough County schools and six Pasco County schools.

Although Hernando schools saw six individual school grades increase, the overall district grade remained a C. Pasco and Hillsborough saw their district grades jump from C's to B's.

The news trickled out beginning Friday, with state officials alerting superintendents.

The revisions follow intense criticism from parents and school leaders because of a series of rapid changes this year to the testing system. It started with plummeting writing scores, followed by an increase in the number of failing third-graders, an overall decline in Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores and a statewide drop in school grades.

School districts have signed on to resolutions against excessive testing. Hernando County is writing its own version of the resolution.

The grade changes were found during a review process.

State officials said the fact that 8 percent of school grades will increase demonstrates the value of a review process.

"The strength of our accountability system depends on the partnership between school districts and the department, and these revisions are a direct result of that process," said Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

Six Hernando school grades improve after re-evaluation 07/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 8:25pm]
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