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Flagler School District Rated B For 2nd Straight Year Despite Seven A-Rated Schools

| July 11, 2014

For Flagler schools, one of the highlights of the year was having teacher Jill Espinosa of Belle Terre Elementary chosen as one of five finalists for the Florida Teacher of the Year award. Espinosa teaches at a school that's been A-rated since it opened a decade ago. (Flagler Schools)

For Flagler schools, one of the highlights of the year was having teacher Jill Espinosa of Belle Terre Elementary chosen as one of five finalists for the Florida Teacher of the Year award. Espinosa teaches at a school that’s been A-rated since it opened a decade ago. (Flagler Schools)

Every single traditional elementary school in the county got an A rating this year, four of them improving from lower grades. Palm Harbor Elementary, the charter school that was failing just two years ago, also got an A. So did Indian Trails Middle School. (See the full chart below.)

“It’s exciting to have all the elementary schools back up to A;s, I know they were working hard on improving,” School Board Chairman Andy Dance said.

For all that, the Flagler County School District got a B rating for the second year in a row according to preliminary school grades released Friday by the Florida Department of Education. The district’s ranking fell by a notch, to 12th among 67 school districts statewide, but remains among the state’s elite. St. Johns county schools were at the top again, followed by Sarasota and Santa Rosa.

Andy Dance. (© FlaglerLive)

Andy Dance. (© FlaglerLive)

“We were all trying to get into that top 10, we’re just barely outside,” Dance said. “The goal is still continuous improvement and working our way up.” Dance congratulated St. Johns for taking the top spot again, but cautioned: “It’s an entirely different county, it’s hard to compare Flagler with St. Johns. When you look at our demographics, I think it’s a pretty amazing testament to the teachers and administrative staff. When you draw attention to our demographics, and free or reduced lunch, we are performing very highly with the demographics we have in Flagler County. It takes a lot of hard work.”

The proportion of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch in Flagler is considerably higher than in St. Johns County, with most schools near the 70 percent range in Flagler, as opposed to some schools in St. Johns not breaking 20 percent.

“I want to be the first to congratulate everyone for their handwork and making Flagler Schools a great place for students to learn,” Superintendent Jacob Oliva said in an email to district staff this morning. “We are doing great things in Flagler and this is proof that what we are doing is working.”

Oliva had just returned the previous evening from the Florida Teacher of the Year celebration, where Jill Espinosa, a kindergarten teacher at Belle Terre Elementary–an A-rated school every year of its history since 2004–was one of the five finalists. A Polk County teacher ended up with the award, but Oliva, in an interview this morning, said Espinosa’s achievement spoke to the innovations in the district.

“We pride ourselves on innovation and some of the things we’re doing in Flagler County, when we have A schools, it reinforces what we’re doing, what we should be doing.”


A-rated schools included Bunnell, Rymfire, Old Kings, Wadsworth and Belle Terre elementaries, along with Indian Trails Middle and Palm Harbor, the charter school.  Bunnell, Rymfire and Old Kings improved from last year’s B. Buddy Taylor Middle School got a C, as it had last year, so did Phoenix Academy, the specialized school within the district, also a repeat from last year’s grade. Imagine School at Town Center, the charter school, maintained a B.

Palm Harbor was the great success this year. “Palm Harbor was  a school that has struggled in the past,” Oliva said. “They’ve put some intervention  in place, they’ve extended their learning time, they have great leadership, so we’re very proud of their accomplishments. I keep going back to it takes a team, everybody working together.”

The grades are the result of weighing FCAT and other scores and adding up points. “The more students you have above grade level and the more students who make progress, the more points you earn,” Oliva said.  Flagler  had 521 point, just four points short of the 525 required for an A.

They don’t call the standardized tests high-stakes for grades alone, though school grades have a lot to do with defining a school’s–and a district’s–reputation. Money is tagged to the grades as well, what the state calls “School Recognition Fund.” Schools that get an A earn money, as do schools that improve a full letter grade. The sums add up to several hundred thousand dollars district-wide. The figure for this year hasn’t yet been tabulated.

There’ll be a new grading system next year as the FCAT is finally retired and new tests based on the Florida Standards, themselves based on common core, take root. Formulas will change. But schools will still be graded.  “I don’t see that ever going away,” Oliva said.

Flagler County School Grades, 2001-2016

School2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 20092010 201120122013201420152016
Bunnell ElementaryCCAAABBAABBAB (C)*ABC
Belle Terre ElementaryAAAAAAAAAAB
Old Kings ElementaryBAABAAAAABAABAAC
Rymfire ElementaryBABCAAB (c)*ABB
Wadsworth ElementaryCAAAAABABBAAAAAB
Phoenix AcademyCCClosed
Palm Harbor****FN.A.AB
ImagineDACABBBB
Indian Trails MiddleAAAAAAAAAAB
Buddy Taylor MiddleAAABBAAAAAABCCBC
Flagler-Palm Coast HighCBBDCBCADBBBABBC
Mantanzas HighCDABBBAABAB
iFlaglerB
Grades are based on standardized tests and other factors, including student improvement, end-of-year exams, AP and IB, dual enrollment, and graduation rates.
(*) In 2013, the state Board of Education agreed to pad grades in such a way as to prevent them from falling by more than one letter grade. More than 20 percent of schools benefited from the padding, including Rymfire and Bunnell elementaries in Flagler, whose grades would have been a C if the actual standards were applied.
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15 Responses for “Flagler School District Rated B For 2nd Straight Year Despite Seven A-Rated Schools”

  1. orphan says:

    Soooo..the results of all of this means that nothing really means anything at all? Did I miss something?
    The last paragraph in this article should open some eyes that are currently tightly closed.
    If a school is failing as a teaching institution, what in the world of wonders does it do ANY good to just change the guidelines/rules so that school “B” can achieve the same status as school “A” which has *EARNED* their “A” rating?
    If someone with a working brain can explain this to me….be my guest.

  2. Sandra Reynolds says:

    So what exactly is entailed in “padding” of the grades? It seems to defeat the true purpose of these rankings. Is Mr. Dance inferring that children who are offered free or reduced lunches test lower on FCAT and other test, therefore lowering the overall school scoring? If so, then maybe the state should use funds to address this problem rather than reward the “A” (note wealthy) schools in St. Johns and elsewhere.

  3. PCer says:

    Using poverty and demographics is a lame excuse. There are plenty of schools around the country (and the world) that are doing far more with their students in extreme poverty conditions. Schools in Flagler County are substandard. Some solutions…. teach kids responsibility instead of punishing them for not wearing an ID, focus on real issues instead of dress codes, teach them skills they can use in the real world instead of the b.s. they are learning now.

  4. Tony says:

    In response to pcer, did you not read the part where Flagler is the 12th ranked district in the state? How is that substandard? Also, poverty is an issue and does affect children in a negative way. Lasty, use want the schools to teach responsibility while at the same time complaining about punishment for not wearing an ID. Don’t you think that is hypocritical? Ensuring they wear an ID and reprimanding them when they don’t teaches responsibility.

  5. Because I Can says:

    I’m so sick of grades. All the kids do is study for tests, take the tests, get ready for the next test. They are not learning what they need to live in the real world.

    And what bothers me most, kids graduating from high school can’t sign their name….they print. WT??? Why oh why did they get rid of cursive writing in school. Too old fashioned I guess. Well, call me old fashioned…when I see someone printing…it seems almost illiterate.

  6. Binkey says:

    @pcer

    I’m not familiar with the bs they are being taught. What. Is it?

  7. Andy Dance says:

    The State of Florida continually modifies the benchmarks from year to year. Last year, the cut scores changed significantly and rigor was increased. Students had to score much higher than the previous year in order to be considered proficient. In response, the State incorporated the grade forgiveness that Flaglerlive referred to in the note for Bunnell and Rymfire. The schools scored points that would have equaled a “C”, but for reporting purposes, the school grade could only drop one letter grade (from ‘A’ to ‘B’) to accommodate for the changes.

    With last year’s significant changes, five school grades were lower. It is interesting to note that while some school grades were lower, FPC increased from a ‘B’ to an ‘A’ and the overall district score improved significantly.

    This year, the grades show that three of those schools improved to “A” schools once again, with Bunnell and Rymfire gaining enough points to jump two letter grades.

    There is clear and consistent research that shows students from lower socio-economic status families have lower grades than their counterparts from higher socioeconomic status. When you compare the student achievement results from Flagler to the other counties with comparable demographics, we are significantly out-performing them. Mentioning socioeconomic status is not excuse, it is mentioned to demonstrate that the strategies we are implementing in Flagler Schools are working. These additional supports have been steadily working over the past five years.

    Flagler County endured the worst of the recession, ranking at the bottom in unemployment rates. Our families and students were deeply affected. Conversely, during this time our schools have seen increases in student achievement, rising to 12th this year from 34th in 2009.

    The data reinforces that Flagler is on an upward trend and implementing strategies that are helping student perform at levels near the top in Florida. The data also reinforces that the District leadership’s mission and vision to be courageous and innovative leaders in education is paying dividends for our students, families and our community.

  8. Seminole Pride says:

    If Dance say that poverty and demographics is a cause in determining what our grade will be,then perhaps we should take a look at this. Perhaps those students who are on or below the poverty level that need the free lunch program and special educational needs should all attend a assigned school set up to handle this. That way those students who meet the income and education capabilities will not be affected by those burdens, and can continue to get there education.

  9. love handle says:

    WELL SAID MR DANCE !!!————THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE MY VOTE !!!

  10. Andy Dance says:

    Seminole Pride, schools with a high percentage of free and reduced lunch students receive federal “Title One” dollars for interventions to help make those students successful. Title One funds are part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), providing financial assistance to schools “with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.”

  11. Lauren says:

    Can someone please tell me what is going on at Buddy Taylor? Why can’t this school get up to par with the others??

  12. Melissa says:

    Very well said Andy. This is reality. You definitely have my vote!!

  13. jennifer Lopez says:

    I believe he, Mr Dance is the only Male member on that Board, that actually knows what he is talking about.
    Hopefully Fischer will get voted out this year, and we can get some professionalism on that Board.
    Fischer is a phoney.

  14. Whitney says:

    My son gets reduced lunch and he made perfect scores on both categories on the FCAT for third grade. So the whole reduced lunch crap is no excuse!!

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