Across the state school districts are having a bit of sticker shock concerning this year’s assessment test scores and school grades.
Gulf County felt a bit of a jolt last week.
The county’s two public elementary schools each saw their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) scores fall and last week the Florida Department of Education released school grades.
Port St. Joe Elementary School dropped from an ‘A’ to a ‘B’, snapping two-straight years as an ‘A’ school.
The school has been an ‘A’ school five of the past seven years; the other two years it was graded a ‘B’ school.
Wewahitchka Elementary School remained a ‘C’ school, largely due to a decision last week by the Florida Board of Education to prevent schools from dropping more than one letter grade this year, the final year of transition to Common Core Standards.
Scores and grades were down across the state.
The number of ‘A’ schools across the state, for example, dropped this year from 48 percent of all schools to 29 percent.
“Our students’ performance hasn’t changed from last year,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton. “The state’s criteria changed.”
Common Core Standards, in place in grades K-2 this past year and district-wide this coming school year, is a set of common standards implemented across the country, emphasizing more depth and critical thinking over rote work on standard assessment tests.
Had the Florida Board of Education not approved that recommendation from Florida School Superintendent Tony Mitchell, WES would have likely landed as a ‘D’ school, said Melissa Ramsey, the district’s coordinator for assessment.
“We see our areas that need improvement, but we are proud that we had schools that earned a ‘B’ and ‘C’,” Ramsey said.
Some areas in need of improvement include math scores in Wewahitchka and reading scores in Port St. Joe. Wewahitchka also missed out on bonus points for end-of-course scores at the middle school level.
The grades for high schools will not be known until December.
High school grades are formulated differently, with half of the points based on FCAT scores and the other half on participation and success in dual-enrolled courses, dropout rates, graduation rates and other factors.
In any case, it appears the district will see its streak of consecutive years as a high-performing district end at six.
Recognition as a high-performing district – and the past two years there have been fewer than 20 statewide among 67 districts – Gulf District Schools must be an honor roll district and have a clean annual financial audit.
The district is unlikely to maintain honor roll status.
Based on points scored, the projection is that Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School will be an ‘A’ school and Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School a ‘C’ school, giving the district an ‘A’, ‘B’ and two ‘C’ schools, not enough for honor roll recognition.
Instructional pay raises
The district and union representing teachers have arrived at an agreement on how to disburse money allocated for pay raises this past spring by the Florida Legislature.
The district received more than $300,000 in state funding and the agreement would spread the money evenly among all instructional personnel and the four school administrators.
That would mean $1,715 per teacher/principal.
That brings first-year teacher pay to $32,666.