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After 4 Straight Years, Flagler County School District Loses Its A Rating, to a B

| July 17, 2012

Florida Sen. John Thrasher, the St. Augustine Republican, visiting one of Flagler Palm Coast High School’s shinier jewels in May–Edson Beckett’s graphic design classroom. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County school district has lost its A rating after four successive years. Flagler is now a B district, after significant drops in the overall reading, math and science proficiency of its students. That’s in spite of the fact that all local, traditional public schools earned an A or a B this year.

The drop is only in part driven by changes in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), which is gradually being made tougher as the state moves closer to adopting stronger, national standards in the core disciplines. Students across the state saw their writing scores plummet this year because, to be at proficient levels, they were now expected to craft cleaner sentences, know their punctuation, and provide support for their reasoning. Those are basic writing conventions, but they were expected as rigorously of students in the past. Now they are.

As a result, just 27 percent of 4th graders passed the writing FCAT, down from 81 percent last year. Just 33 percent of 8th graders passed, down from 82 percent, and 38 percent of 10th graders passed, down from 80 percent. The effect of the drop would have been devastating on school grades, which are calculated based on each school’s individual performance. In turn, the effect on district grades would have been equally devastating. To prevent that domino effect, the state Board of Education in an emergency session decided to revert to last year’s grading standards, at least as far as proficiency levels are concerned, and only regarding the writing portion of the FCAT. That restored at least the semblance of proficiency among a majority of students.

In Flagler County, for example, 4th graders had gone from 85 percent at proficient level or better to 38 percent (considerably better than the state average), eighth graders went from 79 percent to 28 percent, five points below the 33 percent state average, and 10th graders went from 85 percent to 38 percent. The state board’s “adjustment” lifted the district-wide score back up to 82 percent proficiency.


The Flagler County School Board is meeting today at 5 p.m., when it will be presented with the latest numbers and an analysis of the Flagler district in relation to others across the state.

To earn an A, the district needed a combined 525 points, out of 800. It received a combined 509. Across the state, 58 percent of districts saw their letter grade drop by at least one letter, while 42 percent maintained their grade.

Flagler was one of 30 districts to have an A last year—a sign that getting an A had become relatively easy, considering that almost half the state’s districts had one. This year, 18 districts lost their A status, and just 21 percent of the state’s districts could claim an A. Thirty-three percent had a B, 36 percent had a C, and 10 percent had a D.

For all that, Flagler County improved its ranking, from 29th to 19th in the state, a sign that despite the setbacks, the district is handling the transition, and the tougher standards, better than most other districts. That’s an important distinction at a time when the school board is campaigning to convince the public to approve an extension of a half-cent sales tax surcharge, on the books for the past 10 years. That measure is on the Aug. 14 primary election ballot.

Looking more closely at the numbers, the proportion of the district’s students getting a 3 or better on the FCAT in reading went from 71 percent last year to 60 percent this year. In Math, the drop was from 72 percent to 60 percent. In science, the drop was from 48 percent to 42 percent.

The gap between Flagler County students and other A-rated districts is instructive. In A-rated districts, the proportion of students scoring a 3 or better in reading was 67 percent, in math it was 68 percent, and in science it was 61 percent—by far the biggest gap with Flagler County students—a  gap of 19 points, suggesting that Flagler’s science teachers will have extra work this year.

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8 Responses for “After 4 Straight Years, Flagler County School District Loses Its A Rating, to a B”

  1. Deep South says:

    Just curious. What percentage of today’s students come from households of parents or single parent with a college degree ? I had 2 children that went through the Flagler County School system, kindergarten thru 12th grade, and both went on to college and obtain their college degrees, one child received her Masters Degree. Both my wife and are college educated and went on to have professional careers. It just seems that the kids today are lacking in education and skills, and just wanted to know how much education their parents had., and are they getting the assistance at home when needed.. Just my opinion.

  2. Deep North says:

    The problem is with the students and the course they are being taught. First of all, a parents education and value can affect a student’s performance. For one, values don’t have to be from religious factors or political embracement, it can be just the plain old fashion of hard work, discipline, and cleverness. What the students of this county need is parental support to work HARDER in school. Not only that, the state needs to raise its standard. In fact, the county should. We, as a society can blame the parents for half the problem, but the education system needs to step up the pace and challenge our student to excel. Why should our students suffer through a monotonous standardized test (FCAT) that has no value or effects on a students interest in college? I think it’s funny how the students fail and then the state said it would reverse its standard on the score. You know what America? Our students are failing because we have brutes in the administrative level who expects the orthodox teaching of ‘there is only one correct solution’ to the education. The FCAT is not getting harder. The standard is dropping lower. I remember in the ABC 20/20 report called ‘Stupid in America’ when John Stossel went to Belgium and gave the student there tests about American history. Believe it or not, the students in Belgium scored higher! How in the world?! I also remember how a Belgium student puts it in terms, “If the American students can’t do it, then I think they’re pretty much stupid”. I can agree with what that Belgium student stated. For as a matter of fact, I studied with students in this school system who barely knows the basics of algebra, geometry, science, or english. Why won’t the school system teach grammar anymore in high school?!!! You don’t have to be smart, you have to at least know the basics. We need reform on the state’s education system. Stop paying administrative higher than teachers! I probably can perform their job better and faster than these local ‘dedicated’ government employees after reading on Wikipedia about government principles. Raise the standard, teach the basics, and form a new standardize test on roughly the same level as the SAT. Root out all the kids who don’t want to be in high school and put them in technical schools but do teach them the basics. Invest in technology and materials that can save the school money. For example, buy an efficient light bulb or shut the lights when you leave the classroom. Invest more on community project so these students have a grasp of loyalty and patriotic feelings for their area (not trying to propagandize). And one last thing, stop babysitting the kids, they have to learn how to make their own choices. This is your future America. The kids, the teenagers sitting on those plastic chairs, the students being taught from textbooks that don’t even make them critically think in a creative learning environment. I don’t want to wake up the next morning and see Russia or Korea on the news as having a higher rank in education. Do you? Oh wait, they already do.

    “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning” – Mark Twain

    • Deep South says:

      @Deep North you have some good points. but Ido remember when my kids were in high and both were taking advanced courses in college education classes such as algebra, geometry, calculus, physic, and college, english , and thought how rewarding it was for my wife and I to assist them because we were taught and learned these subjects both in high school and college. Their wasn’t a single subject that my wife and I did not know how to tutor to our children because of our upbringing and higher education. I don’t think it is the State’s testing system, but the lack and laziness of the parent’sand their education that are causing today’s children not to succeed. The teacher can only teach, but are the children aren’t able and willing to learn, and the system just keeps passing them through. Kids today do not know how to fail, and able to handle it. They were always told by their parents they were special and will succeed. Not the best way to raise a child. Don’t blame it on the State or the education system. This generation has been dubbed the “soft and sissy generation” according to experts in the field of education.

  3. The 100 Percent says:

    I have to admit, both Deep South and Deep North are onto something, in my humble opinion. Parental involvment at home does make a difference (how many kids are going to voluntarily choose to do their homework over something fun – did you?). And, it’s time for America to wake up and recognize how we’re failing our own future with a failing education system today.

    Perhaps something to consider are things that matter to both the left and the right (again, I don’t want to make this political – education affects the future of 100% of Americans, not 50%). In doing so, why not look at what one country performing better than us, Norway, is doing. Norway is a top country in education and innovation, while America continues to slide. Why? To start, teachers are revered, not disparaged as they are here, and teachers in Norway require a Master’s degree.

    America spends more on children than any other country in the world, but the majority of that money is spent during the years 6 – 18. Other countries performing better spend less, and spend it earlier, in the 0 – 6 year range. Science has now proven the most important years in a child’s development are 0 – 3 — beyond that is remedial. So these other countries are spending more earlier and less later, and receiving a bigger return on investment than the U.S., which spends more money fixing problems rather than avoiding them. So here’s a left/right solution: spend less, spend it earlier, and improve education. Win Win.

    Also, spending more earlier by allowing parents more time off with newborns provides the necessary time to develop the all important social bonds that will help prevent future issues (educational and behavioral). This reduces the need for future spending to correct issues. Also, it’s proven that countries that provide more time off for new parents have a higher “return to work” rate than the U.S. Simply put, we have a brain drain caused by parents not returning to work after only 6 or 12 weeks off with a newborn. Parents elsewhere who’ve been allowed more time with their newborns are more comfortable returning to work.

    So, by merely changing our approach to funds allocation, we can save money, improve child education, reduce behavioral issues, reduce the new parent brain drain, and generally approve happiness in our society.

    Food for political though?

  4. PalmCoast says:

    The reality is it takes a 2 parent income today in our economic situation. Many Grandparents are finding themselves being a parent all over again in what should be their golden years. There are many good parents in our community that are involved in their children’s education and their children’s school. Yes more often than not we hear about the trouble makers…rarely do we hear about the children that are working hard at school, have parental involvement and yes have manners. I so agree we need to teach our children the basics in education. Seems that the basics are washed over. I have seen fist hand the curriculum in our schools. It looks like a good jury trail…throw everything up against a wall and see what sticks. Growth and development of a child is not even considered in our school system. Take a 5 year old in our school system…they need to be able to read and then write 3 sentences before they can even go on to the first grade. A child’s hands through development grows to do this task, but the nimble 5 years old fingers are clumsy if at all being able to do this task (that is why they came up with “fat” pencils and crayons) Most 5 year olds find it hard to color within the lines. That is eye hand coordination. You can’t make a child sit upright on his own before he is able to do. Just the way it is! Reading is a taught skill, writing is a taught skill. These kindergarteners must know there classroom number, their phone number, their school lunch number, rider/school bus number, how to open their own milk, peel their own oranges, tie their own shoes, tell time, add, subtract and the list goes on. Check with the your local school to see how many of our children are being left back in Kindergarten. The number is staggering. By not teaching the basics in our schools and failing a kindergartener we are setting our children up for failure from the get go! It is nice to think that parents should be able to do most of the teaching with children and work too, but again the reality is 2 parents need to work today. So where else can this be accomplished?….as it was years ago through basics by the classroom teacher. The curriculum needs adjustment to focus on basics….because once you have the basics it makes the next step in learning easier to build on. I am a college graduate and I have seen the 4th grade homework from our schools daily. I cannot even understand the math homework! The curriculum has added so many more steps to a math problem then is needed to get to the answer. Why they do this I am not sure! Science is a joke rather than teach a topic, 6 topics are in one chapter as it is with all subjects taught. The curriculum needs to be adjusted and the people who oversee over children’s education need to be held accountable for the curriculum chosen. Just as with the FCAT the only people reaping the rewards are the company that is contracted to supply the FCAT. Pay to have good teachers in our schools that are qualified. Knock off some of the assistant principles and PE teachers and get good teachers in the classroom. Let the teachers teach more than 25 hours in the classroom per week. Many changes can help the education of our children but I don’t feel it has to be a blame game where it is the parents fault or the teachers fault. We need to look at the system as a whole! (IMO)

  5. FCSB says:

    it is probably because most parents like me disagree that the school board’s decision to have uniforms

  6. Deep North strikes back says:

    Now I don’t want to sound like a radical ‘educationist’ or a liberal or worst, a conservative, but Deep North, you (don’t take it personally) have some horrible points. I understand about the value of your thoughts as hard work and parental support from home to encourage the students of this county to stop being lazy, but the real problem lies in the state’s standardized teaching, educational upbringing, and the education system itself. You say that this generation is the ‘sissy’ and ‘soft’ generation and I’m totally agreeing with what you state. The real criteria that impedes the students progress is the education system, the no child left behind policy, the FCAT and much more. We, as a society , live in a 21st century yet we teach students from the basis of a system originating from an 19th century standpoint. The students are lazy only to the fact that they see no value in education. And you may ask, “how come dear sir?” Well, I’ll tell you why. The state’s education system can totally take the blame 50% of the way. I’ll blame them (even though Deep South said don’t blame the system). I’ll even point out to the problem: it’s the subject they are being taught! I’m not saying that there is too much subject in the curriculum. Damn, our Asian counterpart can probably outsmart us by far from reading the same source us Americans do. The system has a default. Maybe the parents are to be blamed also? Man, I hate this blame game going on here! I tell you what, if the kids are failing, there is something wrong with the indoctrination of our education. The doctrine written by the state needs reform. The required curriculum needs reform and all out encouragement from the state for the kids to succeed. You teach students, like I said, there is only one answer and that is the only correct answer. For example: “What is the main idea?” Yeah sure, like the real world is going to ask you that. You need to critically challenge the students. Give a new mindset. Adapt the system to the CHANGING world.

  7. PalmCoast says:

    The system as a whole needs to be re-worked! The curriculum used in our schools, as I see it is a “glaring problem”. The curriculum used has changed approximately 3 times in the last 5 years that I am aware of. The curriculum used this year for a fourth grader was not the curriculum used a year prior for a fourth grader. All books and curriculum materials are of current date….the problem being as I see it…nobody is “overseeing the material” used for the curriculum!! This is a big business…the companies used by our local education department for the purchase of the books in the classroom, the “online” course study information, as well as tests ect. to follow the state guidelines for the curriculum needs REVIEW!!…these companies are reaping huge rewards from our tax dollar for the purchase of this material. I am not sure who oversees the actual curriculum purchased (books ect.) BUT that is where I see a huge problem!! Books for the curriculum are never re-used for the next class of students, because the curriculum is being change so often. A current question posed to our students in their reading classes truly makes me laugh “Why did the author write the book?” like we should all should jump into the mindset of the author and know why he took on the challenge of writing on such a topic for a book.
    Teachers MUST teacher to whatever curriculum they are given….student MUST learn from that curriculum that is being taught!!!
    I feel first and foremost the curriculum needs some STRONG oversight!!! This is a purchase made with tax dollars and we should be asking where and how our tax dollar is being spent. HOW much is being spent also HOW often is this purchase being made. WHO has the purchasing power? Who reviews the material before being purchased? If you ask any teacher about what is being taught in the classroom the first thing they say is “I am following the curriculum that I was given to teach, I must follow that curriculum” whether they agree with it or not! We as taxpayers have the right to hold our administers who have the purchasing power for the curriculum accountable for the purchases made with our tax dollar!! Just as with the FCAT the company supplying the material is the only one reaping the rewards. Just as the companies supplying the material used in the classroom is reaping huge rewards!!

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