Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

Romano: Dunedin Elementary case shows problem with Florida school grades

One small problem with school grades:

They're a sham.

All of the money, all of the time, all of the kvetching surrounding Jeb Bush's school grading scheme is utterly worthless because the proper context is rarely considered.

What do I mean by that?

The single most predictive factor in a school's grade is the poverty level of the student body. You tell me how many students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program, and I can usually tell you a school's grade.

For instance, since 2011 there have been 71 grades handed to Pinellas County schools that had 30 percent or less of the student body in the free lunch program. Those schools have had a combined grade point average of 3.84. Pretty darn good.

On the other hand, there have been 122 grades given to Pinellas schools that had a 70 percent or higher enrollment in the lunch program. The combined grade point average in those circumstances was 1.62. Pretty darn bad.

All of the schools in between? A 2.97 GPA. Pretty average.

I'm no statistician, but I believe that's called a trend.

We can argue the reasons why wealth plays such a large role, but we cannot deny its impact. Any bar graph of school grades would show a perfectly symmetrical line beginning with schools in rich neighborhoods and trending relentlessly lower as you travel down the economic ladder.

And yet the blockheads we send to Tallahassee refuse to acknowledge this.

Instead of working on real solutions for the economic/education gap, legislators have declared war on the principals and teachers unfortunate enough to work at high poverty schools.

If students score low enough on standardized tests, it triggers a mandatory turnaround program that can lead to employee upheaval.

Which brings us to Dunedin Elementary.

This was once a highly regarded school with the test scores to prove it. Back in 2005, Dunedin scored a coveted A in the state grading system. At the time, its free/reduced lunch rate was 53 percent. As that rate increased to 59, 62, 63 and then 67 percent, Dunedin clung to a B grade. By 2010, the rate was up to 78 percent and Dunedin dropped to a C. By 2012, it was 83 and the school was down to a D.

In 2013, the school fell to an F and was destined for turnaround status.

So the principal was demoted and more than a dozen teachers were jettisoned. Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego says the F grade required him to begin a turnaround process, but he said many other factors contributed to the staffing changes.

"It's not all about a single letter grade,'' Grego said. "It's how things are moving forward, and the leadership dynamics. It's my job to look at the best interests of the school, and what can be done to move it back to being an outstanding performer.''

Grego likened it to a struggling baseball team that changes managers simply to provide a new voice.

With that in mind, he made his decision before the 2013-14 school grades were released. It would be disastrous, he said, to wait until summer to make widespread changes.

Editor's note: This column has been edited to remove an incorrect number found in state records. It is estimated that 83 percent of students at Dunedin Elementary in the 2013-14 school year were from low-income families that qualified for free and reduced-price lunches. An incorrect percentage initially was reported.

Comments
In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

Separate accreditation has long been a point of pride and a stamp of independence for the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee branches of the University of South Florida.Graduates of those schools frame diplomas bearing the name of their own universi...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Video captures basketball game between kids, St. Petersburg officers

Video captures basketball game between kids, St. Petersburg officers

ST. PETERSBURG — Teamwork wins games, they say. And basketball can bridge gaps.That’s what makes the Facebook video of three St. Petersburg police officers playing a game of pickup in the street against three kids so compelling. The officers, who wer...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year is a self-described "busy, busy bee" who never tires of exploring new ways to help students learn, even if she has to be creative.At 56, Bonnie Bresnyan also is a mentor for the next generation of s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

PORT RICHEY — The casino boat operator whose shuttle caught fire Sunday, leaving one passenger dead, says it does not know what could have caused the blaze.But federal records show the company, now called Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, had another boat...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Did everyone enjoy the cool, sunny weather? Because it’s over now.It’s about to get very chilly, Tampa Bay. A rush of arctic air is headed our way, bringing another cold spell. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 60s on Wednesday, but overnight t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Thanks Twitter: Fakesters pose as jackpot winner Shane Missler

Thanks Twitter: Fakesters pose as jackpot winner Shane Missler

Jackpot winner and Florida man Shane Missler wants to leave behind a legacy with his winnings.But he won’t be doing that by doling out cash to Twitter followers.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Florida man, 20, claims $450M Mega Millions jackpotAn account cunningl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials fired a Fire Rescue medic Tuesday after an internal investigation concluded he had "unwavering loyalty" to the Outlaws Motorcycle Club — the state’s dominant biker gang.Clinton Neal Walker, 33, of Bradenton is th...
Updated: 1 hour ago

St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to Rohingya repatriation timeline; Madsen charged in journalist Wall’s death; more in world news

Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to Rohingya repatriation timeline; Madsen charged in journalist Wall’s death; more in world news

South AsiaNations plan Rohingya returnBangladesh and Myanmar have agreed that they will try to complete within two years the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled from violence in Myanmar, Bangladesh’s Foreign Min...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Italian Butterfingers? Nestle selling candy business for $2.9B

Italian Butterfingers? Nestle selling candy business for $2.9B

Associated PressNEW YORK — Swiss food and drink giant Nestle is selling its U.S. candy business to Italy’s Ferrero for about $2.9 billion in cash. Ferrero will take over iconic chocolate brands Butterfinger and Crunch bars, as well as the sugary Nerd...
Updated: 2 hours ago