For the third consecutive year Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School earned an ‘A’ under the state’s grading formula for schools.

For the third consecutive year Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School earned an ‘A’ under the state’s grading formula for schools.

That may be enough to maintain the Gulf District School streak of recognition as a high-performing district.

High school and combination school grades were released last week by the Florida Department of Education.

Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School fell just shy of a ‘B’ to again earn a ‘C’.

“Congratulations to both schools on a great job,” said Superintendent of Gulf County Schools Jim Norton. “We are very excited about what the scores were for all our schools.

“The great news is that Port St. Joe High School was an ‘A’ school for the third year in a row. That says a lot about the faculty and staff. Wewahitchka High School we thought might earn a ‘B’ but they fell just short. It was a great job by everybody.”

There is an appeal window open through Jan. 22 but it was not clear if district officials might appeal the WHS grade.

High school grades are released late in the calendar year because the grades are not based solely on results from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) as with elementary schools.

Earlier this year, Port St. Joe Elementary was given a ‘B’ grade and Wewahitchka Elementary a ‘C’.

Fifty-percent of high school grades are tied to FCAT scores, but the other half of the calculation takes into account enrollment numbers and success in dual-enrolled courses as well as graduation and drop-out rates, among other factors.

The ‘A’ at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, for which the school will be eligible for state School Recognition dollars, reflects a statewide trend.

A record number of state high schools and combination schools earned an ‘A’ this year, with 240 schools or 48 percent earning the highest grade, according to the FDOE.

That is a jump of 92 schools, or 17 percent, above the number of ‘A’ high schools from 2010-11.

Gov. Rick Scott noted that the “great education” being offered by Florida teachers, and reflected in the increase in high-achieving schools, was a primary reason, “We fought to provide $480 million (this year) for teacher pay raises.”

“Thank you to Florida’s teachers, parents and school leaders for their outstanding commitment to continuing academic success,” said Pam Stewart, Commissioner of Education. “The results show that more students are ready for college or a career than ever. I am proud of the work our educators are doing every day in the classroom.”

The increase in ‘A’ schools comes even as the grading formula became “more rigorous,” according to the FDOE.

For example, specific learning gains for the lowest-performing 25 percent of students were not counted last year.

As more schools earn grades of ‘A’ or ‘B’ the state adjusts the grading scale up, meaning a tougher grading scale next year, according to the FDOE.

An unknown at this time is whether Gulf District Schools will hold onto the designation of being a high-performing district.

To maintain that distinction, and the district has been high-performing for six-straight years, is to be an honor roll district with no deficiencies on annual financial audits.

When elementary school grades were announced, the odds looked long the district would maintain the honor.

But with the ‘A’ from Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School the odds got much shorter.

“The grades average out to a ‘B’ so we should be able to maintain our designation as a high-performing district,” Norton said.

The number of Florida high schools and combination schools earning School Recognition awards remained steady with 281 schools eligible based on the preliminary grades issued today. Recognition bonuses are given to eligible schools that earn an “A” grade, increase their letter grade by at least one grade, or maintain the same grade after having improved at least two letter grades in the prior year. The awards will be sent to all Florida schools after the high school grade appeals are finalized next year.


Detailed information on the 2013 high school grades and a press packet with graphic displays of results are available on the department's website at School Grades.