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A closer look at the 14 lowest-performing schools in Hillsborough County

The district has 13 schools with D grades from the state, and one with an F. They’re looking for ways to turn things around.
A student works at a laptop during class at James Elementary School in Tampa. Hillsborough County school officials say they are working to lift James and other schools out of their status as "persistently low-performing."
A student works at a laptop during class at James Elementary School in Tampa. Hillsborough County school officials say they are working to lift James and other schools out of their status as "persistently low-performing." [ AYA DIAB, AYA DIAB | Times ]
Published Feb. 17

With more “persistently low-performing” schools than any other district in Florida, the Hillsborough County school district is focusing on making improvements at 45 schools it calls the “Transformation Network.”

Related: Hillsborough’s struggling schools attempt a ‘transformation.’ Can it work?

The Tampa Bay Times took a deeper look at the 14 “transformation” schools that still have a D or an F grade from the state. They share some traits, including low test scores and large numbers of families who live in poverty. But they also vary in size, location and how often they get new principals.

The information below includes metrics like the numbers of students who have left for magnet, choice and independently run charter schools, and the “stability rate,” which is the percentage of students who stayed in the school from October to February. The numbers are from the school district and the Florida Department of Education.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS MIDDLE

10201 N Boulevard, Tampa

Students needed more from their teachers at Adams Middle.
Students needed more from their teachers at Adams Middle. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 1958

Students: 648

State grade: D

Low-income: 82 percent

Student stability: 87.6 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 702

Principals in the last five years: 2

From the 2020-21 school improvement plan: In science, low scores resulted from “the teacher skill in the classroom and lack of standard based instruction.... Social studies achievement had the greatest gap. The teacher skill did not meet the needs of the students.”

• • •

BROWARD ELEMENTARY

400 W Osborne Ave., Tampa

Teacher vacancies and student absences affected scores at Broward Elementary.
Teacher vacancies and student absences affected scores at Broward Elementary. [ Google Maps ]

Opened: 1927

Students: 291

State grade: D

Low-income: 90.4 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 25 percent

Student stability: 85.7 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 164

Principals in the last five years: 1

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: Contributing factors to disappointing results “include lack of rigorous tasks, teacher understanding and application of standards, scholar understanding of tasks and standards, scholar application and ownership of their learning and standard mastery, consistent progress monitoring by all stakeholders, teacher vacancies, prior year standards not mastered, and scholar attendance.”

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• • •

ESTHER D. BURNEY ELEMENTARY

901 S Evers St., Plant City

Learning tasks at Burney Elementary did not always reflect grade-level state standards.
Learning tasks at Burney Elementary did not always reflect grade-level state standards. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 1923

Students: 354

State grade: D

Low-income: 88.4 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 27.3 percent

Student stability: 94.2 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 178

Principals in the last five years: 4

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: “Learning tasks designed by teachers did not always meet grade-level standards.... In science, there was a “lack of active thinking strategies in the classroom and two new teachers to 5th grade teaching science who had limited knowledge of 5th-grade math standards.”

• • •

DON G. GIUNTA MIDDLE

4202 S Falkenburg Road, Riverview

Teacher vacancies were noted at Giunta Middle.
Teacher vacancies were noted at Giunta Middle. [ Google Maps ]

Opened: 2005

Students: 865

State grade: D

Low-income: 79.5 percent

Student stability: 90.6 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 1,248

Principals in the last five years: 3

From the 2019-20 school improvement plan: “Teacher vacancies negatively impacted all areas” before the current principal arrived. “The lack of instructional coaches made it difficult to provide the level of support necessary for new teachers and building the capacity of all teachers.”

• • •

CLEMMIE ROSS JAMES ELEMENTARY

4302 E Ellicott St., Tampa

James Elementary saw frequent suspensions. but there are fewer this year.
James Elementary saw frequent suspensions. but there are fewer this year. [ Times (2018) ]

Opened: 1966

Students: 417

State grade: F

Low-income: 93 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 16.9 percent

Student stability: 89.9 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 315

Principals in the last five years: 3

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: “Teachers lacked clarity of the intended learning outcomes based on the lessons implemented in the classroom, and students lacked an understanding of learning intentions and their success criteria needed for higher achievement.” Suspensions were also frequent, especially among learning-disabled students, and the current principal has improved those statistics.

• • •

JENNINGS MIDDLE

9325 Governors Run Drive, Seffner

Teacher Jenise Freeland's math class at Jennings Middle on Oct. 5, 2021.
Teacher Jenise Freeland's math class at Jennings Middle on Oct. 5, 2021. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 2003

Students: 717

State grade: D

Low-income: 86.6 percent

Student stability: 91.2 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 595

Principals in the last five years: 2

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: In the last school year, all three grades struggled with reading and writing because all of those teachers were new. In writing, there were new teachers who did not know how to score essays. In reading, “teachers were learning how to plan to teach multiple standards, developing standards-based questions, and learning how to get students to think and speak using the standards at play.”

• • •

LOCKHART ELEMENTARY MAGNET SCHOOL

3719 N 17th St., Tampa

The Lockhart Elementary courtyard.
The Lockhart Elementary courtyard. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 1952

Students: 379

State grade: D

Low-income: 92.9 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 46.2 percent

Student stability: 93.2 percent

Principals in the last five years: 3

From 2021-22 school improvement plan: “Teachers (are) not fully understanding the depth of the (English/language arts) standards and how they relate to the building of content knowledge, fluency, and comprehension.” From the 2020-21 report: “Teachers are not planning rigorous and culturally responsive lessons that are grade appropriate and aligned to standards with clearly stated learning progressions and clearly defined proficiency.”

• • •

MCDONALD ELEMENTARY

501 Pruett Road, Seffner

A pre-Thanksgiving performance at McDonald Elementary.
A pre-Thanksgiving performance at McDonald Elementary. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 1976

Students: 541

State grade: D

Low-income: 83.2 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 25.6 percent

Student stability: 88.2 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 174

Principals in the last five years: 2

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: Contributing factors to overall need for improvement: “COVID absenteeism for students and faculty, high mobility, teachers with less than three years experience in intermediate grades, early implementation of online platforms.”

• • •

FRANK D. MILES ELEMENTARY

317 E 124th Ave., Tampa

A student assembly at Miles Elementary.
A student assembly at Miles Elementary. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 1962

Students: 777

State grade: D

Low-income: 85.6 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 16.5 percent

Student stability: 88.8

Zoned students attending other schools: 404

Principals in the last five years: 3

From the 2020-21 school improvement plan: “Miles is overcrowded, topping out at 915 students at one point last year, with about 200 homeless or in transition.... In math, it was difficult for the one math coach to support the size of our school alone, given that students transferred in and out all year at different levels.” The school lost three classroom aides for kids learning English, due to 2019 budget cuts.

• • •

ROBLES ELEMENTARY

4405 E Sligh Ave., Tampa

Robles Elementary families gather in front of the school for an August open house.
Robles Elementary families gather in front of the school for an August open house. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 1960

Students: 696

State grade: D

Low-income: 92.1 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 26.9

Student stability: 91 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 584

Principals in the last five years: 5

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: “In 2019-2020 Robles faced barriers from lack of innovative teaching strategies and classroom structures, lack of home-school connection and support, low academic achievement/growth, and teacher vacancies and turnover. In 2020-2021, Robles faced additional barriers related to the impact of COVID-19.”

• • •

SHAW ELEMENTARY

11311 N 15th St., Tampa

Students could have used more timely feedback at Shaw Elementary.
Students could have used more timely feedback at Shaw Elementary. [ Google Maps ]

Opened: 1972

Students: 660

State grade: D

Low-income: 85.9 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 15.7 percent

Student stability: 87.6 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 238

Principals in the last five years: 2

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: “Teachers lacked clarity of instruction around the rigor of the standards and students were provided with limited experience working at the rigor of the grade level standards to support higher academic achievement. There was also a lack of teacher monitoring during independent work and providing student with timely feedback to improve student achievement.”

• • •

SULPHER SPRINGS K-8

8412 N 13th St., Tampa

A lack of math coaches affected scores at Sulpher Springs K-8.
A lack of math coaches affected scores at Sulpher Springs K-8. [ Google Maps ]

Opened: 1926

Students: 636

State grade: D

Low-income: 94.2 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 28.6 percent

Student stability: 87 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 358

Principals in the last five years: 3

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: “In reading, students have a lot of gaps which makes grade level standards challenging. Teachers also tended to start where the students were as opposed to at the depth of the standard.... In math, the coach supporting 4th and 5th grade was also teaching 3 blocks of math during the day and the coach supporting grades 6-8 was teaching 2 blocks of math a day. This did not allow for the coach to be able to effectively support teachers during their classroom instruction.”

• • •

TAMPA HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY MAGNET SCHOOL

305 E Columbus Drive, Tampa

Tampa Heights Elementary reopened in 2021 after being heavily damaged by fire.
Tampa Heights Elementary reopened in 2021 after being heavily damaged by fire.

Opened: 2021

Students: 312

State grade: D

Low-income: 82.4 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 46.5 percent

Student stability: 95.8 percent

Principals in the last five years: 3

From the 2020-21 school improvement plan: “There is a lack of content knowledge, standard knowledge, pedagogy, and instructional strategies in teaching math, and professional development is needed.” The same was said of English/language arts.

• • •

TEMPLE TERRACE ELEMENTARY

124 Flotto Ave., Temple Terrace

An abundance of new teachers affected scores at Temple Terrace Elementary.
An abundance of new teachers affected scores at Temple Terrace Elementary. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]

Opened: 1955

Students: 540

State grade: D

Low-income: 88.3 percent

Ready for kindergarten: 25.8 percent

Student stability: 89.5 percent

Zoned students attending other schools: 353

Principals in the last five years: 2

From the 2021-22 school improvement plan: Science proficiency dropped by 18 percentage points. “With Covid-19, students and teachers were impacted with needing to be isolated or quarantined throughout the year.... Many eLearning students were not as attentive as their brick and mortar counterparts. Additionally, 14 teachers were in their first three years of teaching or new to Hillsborough County Public schools, and as a result, there was a lack of content knowledge and pedagogy.”

• • •

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