Characterizing this year’s school grades is as simple as consistency.
For the third year in a row Gulf District Schools earned a “B” in the Florida Department of Education’s school grading formula.
Grades were released last week by the DOE.
Since the transition from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to the Florida Standard Assessments, the district has earned a “B” grade each year.
“We are pleased, they are about what we thought (after FSA scores were released last month),” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton. “I don’t want to sound complacent, because we are not, but we are happy with the grades.
“The grades are always a mixed bag. There are positives and there are areas we already know we have to work on. We have already formulated plans for addressing areas of concern.”
The only non-‘B’ on the district’s report card, for the second-straight year, was Port St. Joe Elementary School, which earned ‘C.’
Each of the district’s other three public schools earned a ‘B.’
That made two years running each of those three has scored a ‘B.’
Since the transition to the FSA which began in 2014, the only ‘A’ earned in the county came from Wewahitchka Elementary in 2016 and Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School in 2015.
On the other side of that assessment, no district school has fallen below a ‘C.’
The challenges at Port St. Joe Elementary focus on raising the achievement levels and less-than-satisfactory learning gains among those students identified as being within the lowest quartile.
And overall, in both language arts and math the school lagged behind the state average other than at sixth grade and lost ground year over year in every grade and subject save fifth-grade language arts.
Science grades among fifth-graders, on the other hand, spiked by 20 points.
Norton said plans are already being put in place to address the challenges.
“I have no doubt that we can bring Port St. Joe Elementary up to an ‘A’ in the next two years,” Norton said.
The district was behind the state at every elementary grade, in both language arts and math, save sixth-grade, where students scored ahead of the state average in both areas.
The elementary schools also lagged in science.
Wewahitchka Elementary was even with the state average in fifth-grade math.
Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, for the third consecutive year, missed a ‘B’ by mere points, two points in this case.
To reach an ‘A’ a school must earn at least 62 percent of the possible points; Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School earned 60 percent.
Norton noted that the ‘B’ point range is the narrowest among the school grades, A-F, and in a small district such as Gulf a swing of two or three points in any category calculation can make a significant difference.
Among FSA-tested students, the district’s high schools trended above state averages in both language arts and math save for grade 9 language arts and grade 7 math.
However, both high schools lost ground year over year in math, save for Wewahitchka seventh-graders.
Science scores were mixed bag, with eighth-graders struggling to reach state averages while biology end of course scores are well above the state, thanks to a huge leap forward by students in Port St. Joe.
In addition to FSA scores, high school grades also fold in graduation rates and students enrolled in advanced or college-level dual-enrolled courses.
The district’s graduation rate was 85 percent, a reflection of ninth-graders who graduated within four years.
And the district earned 61 of a possible 100 points for its dual-enrolled students.
Also, among high schoolers, the district was behind the state in Civics and US History end of course scores.
School grades are calculated annually based on up to 11 components, including student achievement and learning gains on the FSA and, for high schools, graduation rates.
Districts, and schools, receive points for each component, the points added together and divided by the total points possible to determine a percentage of points earned.
A school that earns 62 percent of points or higher earns an ‘A,’ 54-61 percent earns the school a ‘B,’ 41-53 percent is a ‘C,’ 32-40 percent earns a ‘D,’ and 31 percent or less an ‘F.’
In addition to Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School’s total points, Wewahitchka Elementary earned 56 percent of the possible points, Port St. Joe Elementary 43 percent and Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School 57 percent.