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Mediocre Results for Flagler Schools, Worse for Its Charters, in Controversial State Rankings

| January 31, 2012

The rankings may be illusory. (Mike Leary)

A science elementary school in Brevard County, a middle school in Miami-Dade, a college-affiliated high school in the Panhandle and two schools in southwest Florida top a new list of the top schools in the state according to a new Department of Education list.

Flagler schools are nowhere near the top. (See the full chart below.)

Flagler’s best performing school, Belle Terre Elementary, is the highest ranked by way of percentile, coming in at the 78th percentile (meaning that it is better than 77 percent of the schools in the state), with a ranking of 386 out of 1,795 elementary schools in the state. No other elementary school in the county comes close. Wadsworth Elementary is next. With a ranking of 778 (or 57th percentile), then Old Kings. Bunnell Elementary is ranked 1,284, with a percentile of 28.

Among middle schools, Indian Trails has a relatively healthy ranking of 141 out of 583 middle schools, placing it in the 76th percentile. Buddy Taylor is ranked 236, with a percentile of 60. Matanzas High School comes in at 171 out of 404 high schools in the state, placing it in the 58th percentile, with Flagler Palm Coast High School in the lowest third of the state, at 285 out of 404 schools.

Flagler County’s three charter schools did especially poorly on the rankings, coming in lower than all the traditional schools. In two cases, Palm Harbor Academy and Heritage Academy, the schools were ranked at the absolute bottom of their categories, in the first percentile. Imagine School at Town Center did slightly better, ranking 153rd out of 194 schools, and notching a percentile of 21.

It’s also not a given that charter schools inevitably do less well. The state rankings show magnet and charter schools topping achievement lists.

The list, sure to be considered controversial, follows a list put out earlier by the state on the top school districts, which many school officials wasn’t fair.
In last week’s district ranking, the criticism was that poorer districts fell to the bottom of the ranking scale, and that the state didn’t look at the socio-economic factors of the students.

In most cases, there is a direct correlation between schools’ rankings and the school populations’ proportion of students on free or reduced lunch, which is an indicator of poverty. A school with a higher proportion of poorer students means its population is more transient and less able to take advantage of educational opportunities beyond school. Palm Harbor Academy, for example, has 96 percent of its students on free or reduced lunch, though Imagine has just 42 percent, the lowest proportion of any school in the district.

andy dance flagler county school board

Andy Dance (© FlaglerLive)

Andy Dance, the Flagler County School Board member, remembered his first months on the board, when then-superintendent Bill Delbrugge would remind him that one of the biggest indicator of student success is that student’s economic conditions: poorer students are at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to opportunities. “We have to continually strive to engage parents who typically weren’t engaged” in their children’s education, Dance said, to counter those disadvantages. Graduate One was a good step to get some community outreach, he said, to compel parents to be more involved. “Mentoring is a great opportunity, and we’ve seen some good results with that, and I think continued improved communications with parents, and the schools giving parents more opportunities to get involved with schools.” The downside, though, it tough, when parents are working two jobs and long hours that make it hard to plan, Dance said. “We can buck the trend and work continually harder to get our rankings up there. But there’s so much more that’s involved.”

The school district should focus on controlling what it can, as opposed to being at the mercy of state rankings, Dance said. He cites technology in the classroom, fostering a good staff, and encouraging parental involvement.

“There’s good and bad to pull out of it,” fellow-board member Colleen Conklin said, though she was still trying to digest the data. She said she was initially surprised and disappointed. “The good is, out of almost 2,000 elementary schools, we weren’t number 1,770, but at the same time I know how good our teachers are and the opportunities we have in our district. I was surprised to see exactly where we fell. Good bad or indifferent, a ranking is a ranking.”

On the schools list, with its higher ratio of magnet and charter schools at the top, critics say magnet schools have an edge because they cater to students interested in a specialty area—like math and science, or the arts – and sometimes accept students on an application basis, meaning they can turn away students who won’t be successful. Flagler County has no magnet schools.

And charters get a boost because they have greater flexibility in who they employ and how they teach. In Flagler County, the rankings show no advantage in that regard.

But proponents of school choice say that’s the point – parents should have a chance to send their children to non-traditional schools because they’re finding ways to be successful. And they say the charter schools are successful precisely because of that choice – parents won’t send their children there if they’re not good schools.

“It makes sense that competition through choice produces higher performing schools,” said Patricia Levesque, who heads the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a pro-charter school lobbying group founded by former governor Jeb Bush.


At the top of the list released Monday are: West Melbourne Elementary School for Science in Brevard County; Archimedean Middle Conservatory in Miami-Dade County; Okaloosa’s Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College; The Sanibel School in Lee County; and Pine View School in Sarasota.

The Department of Education ranked the schools after splitting them into groups– elementary, middle, high, and combination. In all, more than 3,000 public schools were assigned a number according to how well students perform on the state’s FCAT standardized test.

The list quickly drew criticism from public school advocates, including Andy Ford, President of the Florida Education Association, the state’s main teachers’ union. “It’s not that standardized test results don’t tell us anything. They’re very accurate measures of the size of the houses near a given school and the income levels of the people who live in those houses,” said Ford. “Researchers have told us for years – even before we started misusing FCAT – that a school’s test scores can be predicted with reasonable accuracy if one knows the socioeconomic status of its students.”

But the foundation’s Levesque said while things like the socio-economic status of an area does play a role in education, she doesn’t believe those factors should be used as excuses for why some schools fare better or worse than others.

“I’m looking at number 16, a school in Osceola that’s ranked 16th in the state that has 87 percent of their student are minority, 67 percent of their students are free and reduced lunch,” Levesque said. “I think there are schools that can succeed because something really fantastic is happening at that school.”

The bigger question is, Conklin said, is “do rankings hurt or help? I’m throwing the question out. That’s exactly what I’m processing at the moment. I’m personally conflicted, because I believe that there are so many variables that go into a school comparison.”

–FlaglerLive and the News Service of Florida

Flagler County School Rankings

SchoolState Rank and PercentileSchool Grade Points2011 Grade2010 Grade% on Free or Reduced Lunch
Elementary Schools
Belle Terre Elementary386/1795 (78)601AA61
Wadsworth Elementary778/1795 (57)558AB71
Old Kings805/1795 (55)555AB51
Rymfire Elementary976/1795 (46)538AC69
Bunnell Elementary1284/1795 (28)506BB72
Palm Harbor Academy (Charter)1774/1795 (1)38696
Middle Schools
Indian Trails141/583 (76)584AA54
Buddy Taylor236/583 (60)556AA69
Combination Elementary/Middle Schools
Imagine School (Charter)153/194 (21)486CA42
High Schools
Matanzas High171/404 (58)1154BB50
Flagler Palm Coast285/404 (30)1055BB59
Combination K-12
Heritage Academy (Charter)55/55 (1)375 (FCAT points)FF62

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18 Responses for “Mediocre Results for Flagler Schools, Worse for Its Charters, in Controversial State Rankings”

  1. Kip Durocher says:

    next will come the cry “privatize” schools, from the repugs in charge in tallahassee.
    even as they see the wreckage of their beloved “charters”

    how it is that Palm Harbor Academy has almost 100% on Free or Reduced Lunch?

  2. JUST WONDERING says:

    THIS IS SUCH A SAD COMMENTARY, OUR RANKINGS ARE LOW BUT WE WILL BE WELL DRESSED ACCORDING TO THE EFFORT OUR SCHOOL BOARD HAS PUT FORTH. THEY REALLY KNOW WHAT
    IS IMPORTANT. I DO WISH THEY WOULD CONCENTRATE ON ACADEMICS. I HEARD FROM MY
    GRANDCHILDREN THAT VERY LITTLE HOMEWORK IS GIVEN TO KIDS. SO WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OLD ADDAGE PRACTICE MAKE PERFECT??? I DO NOT EVEN THINK THERE IS A READING LIST FOR THE SUMMER, WHAT HAPPENED TO KEEPING SKILLS UP? CHILDREN NEED SOLID BASICS BEFORE THEY CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING IN LIFE AND YES THAT MAY COME FROM THE HOME BUT IT COMES FROM THE SCHOOL ALSO. I AM SO DISAPPOINTED IN THE FLAGLER COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM, WE HAVE SUCH TALENTED, GIFTED YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE COUNTY AND YET THEY ARE NOT GIVEN THE TOOLS THEY NEED FROM OUR SYSTEM TO BUILD ON THOSE TOOLS. BUT THEN AGAIN WE VOTED ON THESE CLOWNS WHO WORRY ABOUT DRESS MORE THAN A B Cs.
    MAYBE THE SCHOOL BOARD NEEDS TO GO BACK TO CLASS STARTING WITH FISCHER AND DICKENSON…DICKENSON GETS FIRST SEAT WITH ALL HER DEGREES.

  3. FlaglerNative says:

    Ouch….one more reason I choose to homeschool. The public school system is broken, how much more evidence does everyone need? ………………..HOMESCHOOLERS ROCK!!!!…………….

  4. Oh Yeah says:

    Let’s change the way they dress! That will help!! NOT.

  5. roco says:

    As long you people complain about the school system and the results which are imbarrasing and leave this worthless, useless and I’m only it for the money school board run the school, nothing will change. If you want and deserve a better system you have to go to the school board meetings. I see the city meetings with a croud bashing the city but at the school board and county meetings the place is empty. It’s time to reset your priorities.. Get off the whine trail and get involed..

  6. No whining zone says:

    Perhaps its time to stop patting ourselves on the back telling each other how good we are and get down to being “good”. We need sound educational leadership and not bureaucratic pencil pushers cow towing to political whim. Great educators lead. Administrators should free the classroom teacher to teach and remove the paper pushing nonsense to those who have less vital jobs to do. Every great school I have been associated with let the teaches teach and treated them as professionals who knew how to excite students. Step 1: if you don’t want to continue the mediocrity, CHANGE the way you are doing business. Simple.

  7. Gia says:

    Kids do have all the necessary tools to learn. You are a non sens to believe the contrary. However, they are not learning because they are lazy, thanks to the family environment, then the society end up with a bunch of idiots who cannot find a job because they are ignorant. Those who studying & doing their home work & working hard will do better.

  8. bus driver says:

    GET RID OF DOUG JACKSON ONCE AND FOR ALL………………………………

  9. Lin says:

    After the parents and grandparents have done their best to prepare the children for school, they are sent out the door & into the hands of the teachers, administrators and school board. We can talk all we want about society and doing a good job at home, but the kids should still be learning IN SCHOOL.

    I can tell you what isn’t working in my opinion – FCATs (the Regents system that seems to work up north which is specialized testing after a subject is completed at the end of a school year)

    SHORTENING???? the school day — no, these children need MORE time in school. And don’t tell me where is the money when raises were given this year. The economic realities for most did not include raises. I’m disappointed too — at the decisions of our School Board. Yes, I’m aware of what they have done and have spoken out but we elected these people trusting they would do the best for our kids — and my opinion is they have not.

    Ms Valentine hiring an outside consulting firm to teach employees “communication skills” — such consulting firm with a School Board member connection. Why do they need help communicating?

    Note the top performing school is a “science” school — and we are opening a Russian school. Why not science and math, music & art, vocational school. We need to prepare our children for both a career and teach them life skills and expand their cultural horizons. Don’t understand the NEED

  10. JUST WONDERING says:

    Good to hear a voice of reason. Please give the educators the right to teach. Their hands have been tied for so long by the FCAT. Let them teach to the childs need so they can succeed in life. I totally disagree with the comment that our children are lazy, children are like sponges and by nature love to learn. But they have to be taught to study, to research and how to retain information. A child is molded and nurtured into becoming a successful adult.
    When the focus is placed on material things and not education and learning we get lazy adults. Back to basics….
    and what we are opening a Russian school. what the devil for? I thought people immigrated to become American Citizens, how can this help.
    I am so confused with our focus. SORRY FLAGLER COUNTY WHAT A SHAME.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    @Just Wondering.
    Totally agree. Imagine the controversy if a charter Spanish speaking school would be proposed?

  12. Doug Chozianin says:

    We have a choice… Fire Dumb Students or Fire Incompetent Teachers that cause Students to be Dumb.

    I vote for firing Incompetent Teachers, especially Incompetent Reading and Math Teachers.

    Why don’t we do an experiment…

    Let’s select four poor performing schools, let two of them be charters and:
    . Fire 20% of the teaching staff in each school starting with those that have done a consistent lousy job
    (the school board and students knows who they are):
    . Hire young, energetic teachers that have leadership capabilities that will inspire students to learn:
    . Fire another 10% of the teaching staff who are not performing well (again, well known to all):
    . Replace all the principals in each school with people who can manage and inspire.

    Scores will dramatically improve.
    Continue this procedure with all other schools. (Watch Incompetent Teacher Resignations Rise.)

    (I bet the Flagler School Board will do nothing.)

  13. roco says:

    Doug, you’re right. Include the school board and reduce their pay by 30-40% and watch them ride off into the sunset. They’re only in it for the money..

  14. palmcoaster says:

    @Roco and Doug I agree with some of your ideas on the schools. Have you seeing the salaries of these principals, assistant principals and counselors in our schools?:
    http://www.news-journalonline.com/reports/publicsalary/
    Once you look at the above you will find our what is wrong with our education system.

  15. Liana G says:

    …”said Ford. “Researchers have told us for years – even before we started misusing FCAT – that a school’s test scores can be predicted with reasonable accuracy if one knows the socioeconomic status of its students.”…

    Well then, if we are going to use socioeconomics to justify poor expectations, then there is no reason to justify the exorbitant salaries of those in charge of educating our poverty ridden students. Seems to me that the money can be better spent elsewhere – upgraded and effective teaching resources and techniques, transportation to ensure students get to school daily and on time, school supplies, decent food, longer school days, and proper clothing to limit distractions.

    I am looking at the % of free and reduced students in the schools and find it interesting that BTES with 61% of students on free and reduced lunch can still produce such high scores. Their ranking can be used to debunk Mr. Ford’s statement and strengthen Ms Levesque’s, which I agree with. Something really fantastic must be happening at BTES too. Copy it!

    …“I’m looking at number 16, a school in Osceola that’s ranked 16th in the state that has 87 percent of their student are minority, 67 percent of their students are free and reduced lunch,” Levesque said. “I think there are schools that can succeed because something really fantastic is happening at that school.”…

  16. Lin says:

    Agree Liana G.

    None of the School Board members SHOULD BE surprised with the poor scores. The exhorbitant top salaries in the district don’t seem to result in a good education. How to spend the district’s money is in the hands of the Board — and if something isn’t working it needs to be changed whether personnel or policies. Socioeconomic problems cannot be used as an excuse for not giving these children everything humanly possible to help them succeed. If our School Board or administrators cannot educate, they need to be replaced. They have a choice of working in school or not. But the children don’t have a choice.

    Note that top rated Archimedian Middle School is a charter school.

  17. Der! says:

    Uhm, the dress code thing is an old issue (I believe pre-Tucker, pre-Dance…who, I also believe, voted against the silly time wasting issue used as a tool because they failed to enforce the current dress code) yet somehow still years later a bigger issue than education…let’s see…what is old, unchanging, the same climb-up-on-a-soapbox yet do nothing actually that we could possibly consider changing???….oh, I know how about Conklin & Dickinson…yeah, that’s a good idea. If you want change, perhaps movement in a positive useful direction; dump the ladies! Our schools are just silly!

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