Hernando students outperform others in Tampa Bay, but the region under-performs its peers

Tampa Bay Partnership shares report with Hernando County School Board.
School buses line the parking lot of the Hernando County Schools Transportation Center. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
School buses line the parking lot of the Hernando County Schools Transportation Center. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
Published March 17, 2020

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando and Pasco elementary and secondary school students fared well last school year on a sampling of state assessment tests and final exams when compared to Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, according to the annual State of the Region report from the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Hernando County students came in first, tied for first or placed second on four of the five tests. They were ranked third on the algebra 1 final.

Pasco County students during the same 2018-19 school year ranked first or second on all the tests.

However, the Tampa Bay region as a whole — which also includes Citrus, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota counties — did poorly in the education category when compared to 19 other “peer communities’’ around the nation, said Dave Sobush, director of policy and research for the partnership.

The partnership, comprised of regional business leaders, collaborated with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and United Way on the report, with input from nearly 100 public, private and non-profit partners. It looks each year at the region’s competitiveness in building an economy that works for everyone. An educated workforce “is arguably the most critical factor in a community’s ability to compete and prosper,’’ according to the report.

“We have a relatively low educational attainment rate within our community,’’ Sobush said.

The region is ranked 13th or lower in eight of the 12 educational indicators on the report. They include the share of 16- to 24-year-olds neither employed nor enrolled in school, and the attainment of college and post-graduate degrees.

Sobush highlighted the report’s findings in a presentation to elected officials, business owners and representatives of nonprofit organizations from Hernando and neighboring counties. They gathered last month in the Hernando County School Board meeting room. He later sent a report focusing on the four counties to Susan Duval, Hernando County School Board chairwoman.

“We are proud of the work we’ve done to strengthen our academic achievement and will continue to do so,’’ said John Stratton, Hernando schools superintendent, in a prepared statement about the report. “The research shared at the State of the Region offered compelling data clearly linking more support for public schools to the long-term health of the larger community, overall.’’

The report lists the percentage of third-graders who scored a 3 or above on Florida Standards Assessments exams in English, math and science, and class final exam scores for all students who took biology 1 and algebra 1. A score of 3 is considered “satisfactory.’’ A score of 2 is considered “below satisfactory.’’

The report broke out results in categories: all students; white; black; Hispanic; economically-disadvantaged; non-economically disadvantaged; and English-language learners.

The students deemed non-economically disadvantaged “outpace their peers in every district and every category,’’ the report stated.

Here are the figures for the all-students category:

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  • State exam results in English for third-graders put Pasco at the top with 59.9 percent and Hernando second with 57.4 percent. In Pinellas, the rate was 55.9 percent and in Hillsborough, 52.5 percent.
  • The state math assessment scores for third-graders showed Pasco at the top with 63.5 percent and Hernando second with 57.1 percent. In Pinellas, it was 52 percent, and in Hillsborough, 46.7 percent.
  • On the state science exam, Hernando placed first with 54.4 percent. Pasco had 53.5 percent; Pinellas, 52.3; and Hillsborough, 49.1 percent.
  • On biology 1 finals for all students taking it, Hillsborough’s rate was 66.4 percent, Pasco came in at 66.1, Hernando scored 65.8 and Pinellas, 62.2 percent.
  • Algebra 1 finals scores put Hernando third, with 58.2 percent, and Hillsborough the highest, with 61.5 percent. Pasco had 59.2 percent and Pinellas, 55 percent.

The figures show that white students had the second highest passing rate in every district and English-language learners consistently scored lowest on the tests. Hispanic students scored better than black students, who generally placed second-lowest on the tests. Of the four counties, the gap between black student scores and groups scoring better was smallest in Pasco.

Hernando County’s high school graduation rate last school year was 88.4 percent, equal to Pinellas and a smidgen above Pasco, with 88.3 percent. Hillsborough’s rate was 86.2 percent.