The Florida Department of Education released tentative high school grades for 2011-12 during the holiday break.
Gulf District Schools would like the DOE to take another look at the ‘C’ given to Wewahitchka High School before grades are finalized at the end of this month.
WHS fell just two points shy of a ‘B’ and school and district staff has been crunching numbers since grades were released.
They believe there are two areas of possible review, the prominent one being what the district believes is a miscalculation on the number of middle school students counted in end-of-course exams in Algebra I.
“We are appealing that grade,” said Sara Joe Wooten, the district’s Deputy Superintendent for Instruction.
Port St. Joe High School received an ‘A’ on the tentative grades and both schools finished well above the state average for total points accrued under the high school grading system.
Gulf District Schools, with two ‘C’ schools in Wewahitchka and two ‘A’ schools in Port St. Joe – if the WHS grade is not changed – remains a ‘B’ district, as it was last year.
The district has been an honor roll district, based on state criteria, earning an ‘A’ or ‘B’ for six straight years.
The district is also considered a high-performing district covering the same span.
The ‘high-performing’ designation includes not only school grades but also financial stability as evidenced by a “clean” annual audit.
“We are continuing to be a ‘B’ district and high-performing,” Wooten said. “But we have challenges at each school.”
High school grades are released about six months after elementary and middle school grades because there is an additional set of components for high school grading.
Fifty-percent of high school grade are based on scores from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The other 50 percent is based on college-readiness, including enrollment and success in dual-enrolled courses oradvanced placement courses as well as graduation and drop-out rates.
“We still have a high graduation rate, but we would like to see more minorities participating in dual enrollment,” Wooten said. “And both our high schools showed improvement in graduating at-risk students and that is a plus.”
Wooten said the both high school show they are making learning gains in math and reading for students pretty much across all populations.
The gains in reading have been a particular focus for the district for several years with designated reading coaches and reading instruction connecting to other core coursework across the board.
“Everything we can do for reading we do,” Wooten said.
The number of students in dual-enrolled courses has also increased.
Not only are 80 students currently in dual-enrolled courses, but the success in those courses is also reflected in the state’s grading formula, which awards points for students earning a ‘C’ or better in such college courses.
“One hundred percent of our dual-enrolled students made a ‘C’ or better and I think this is because we put certified teachers in the classroom or they were learning directly from college professors,” Wooten said. “More kids are taking dual enrollment courses. We are continuing to grow there. It is really pretty phenomenal for a district this size.”
The challenges, Wooten said, included science scores at Wewahitchka Middle School and math at Wewahitchka Elementary School.
“Those are our biggies,” Wooten said. “Those are the areas we know we have to address.”
She said reaching minority students and the at-risk population will continue to be an emphasis as the state transitions to entirely new grading matrix in the next two years.
By 2014-15, districts will not only be graded differently, but the majority of state assessment tests will be taken online, Wooten said, continuing a trend that began in the past three years.