After two years of Covid, when the state did not grade schools and districts, Flagler County schools earned a grade of B this year, with only three of its schools earning an A and four earning a C. Two earned a B.
It was a middling performance coming off the disruptions of the pandemic and a decline from the A the district had scored in 2019, after seven straight years as a B district. Previous to that, it had been on a run of four straight years as an A district (between 2008 and 2011).
The district’s A schools were Belle Terre and Old Kings Elementary and Indian Trails middle school. Indian Trails has been an A school every year of its existence (when grades have been issued) since 2006, with the exception of 2016, when it got a B.
Wadsworth Elementary, Matanzas High School and Imagine at Town center, the district’s charter school–publicly funded but privately run–were graded B. For Matanzas, it’s the fifth year in a row, excluding the years of Covid, that it’s been at B. For Imagine, it’s the eighth year in a row.
The C schools were Rymfire and Bunnell Elementary, Buddy Taylor Middle School, and Flagler Palm Coast High School–a concerning cluster of C’s, because Rymfire and Bunnell largely feed into Buddy Taylor, which feeds into FPC. The results may point to a growing academic divide in the county.
An attempt by the school district last year to rezone the district along boundaries that would have mixed the pipeline of Old Kings-Indian Trails-Matanzas with more students from the other cluster was fiercely resisted by some parents, and the district abandoned the idea, retreating to a much more modest plan for now.
Grades at the school or district levels are not without controversy, both in the ways they are calculated or in their intended projections of stigmas and successes. The calculations are based on projections of are calculated based on an aggregation of points from 11 criteria. Most of those are based on standardized test scores, which all the academic limitations and narrowness that such tests entail. Some are based on the proportion of learning gains among lower-achieving students. Graduation rates are also calculated.
But they entirely depend on student “cohorts,” which vary significantly from year to year and by social, cultural and economic backgrounds, criteria that are not measured or weighed into in the calculations. That leaves the scoring system alien to many intangibles–and schools or their faculty vulnerable to criticism that may not necessarily be justified: the same teacher may have a class more or less academically inclined, depending on the year–and the luck of the draw.
The testing material itself has changed over the years, as have the standards. Still, the state persists in issuing grades on the arguable assumption that “Parents and the general public can use the school grade and its associated components to understand how well each school is serving its students.” Parents and businesses use the grades as guides in relocation and home-buying decisions.
In Florida this year, 33 percent of schools were graded A, 25 percent were graded B, and 36 were graded C. Just 30 schools out of nearly 3,200 received an F, or 1 percent, and 170 received a D, or 5 percent. Somehow, 84 percent of schools increased their grades over 2019.
are back in familiar if not ideal territory as the district’s grade fell back to a B in 2022, where it had been for seven straight years
“I am proud of the effort put forth by our school-based administrators, teachers, staff, students, and parents during this past school year. We will take the next few weeks to take a deep dive into the numbers,” Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt was quoted as saying in a release issued by the district. “We recognize there are areas for targeted improvements, but I know our teachers, students, and school administrators are already preparing to address this in the upcoming school year.”
The district underscored some highlights: students earning a learning gain in English/Language Arts went up 3 points. There was a 14-point increase in students earning a learning gain in mathematics. For those students who were in the lower quartile of performance and who still made a learning gain, they increased their English Language Arts and Math scores by 3 and 11 percent respectively. Students performing on-grade level in science went up 4 percentage points.
The release did not list the schools’ grades by name, providing a link to the Department of Education’s data instead. “We now have the scores and can really address those targeted areas that need acceleration to ensure every student in Flagler Schools receives a quality education,” Mittlestadt said.
See the data here.
Flagler County School Grades, 2005-2019
|Bunnell Elementary||A||B||B||A||A||B||B||A||B (C)*||A||B||C||C||C||C||C|
|Belle Terre Elementary||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||B||B||B||A||A|
|Old Kings Elementary||A||A||A||A||A||B||A||A||B||A||A||C||A||B||B||A|
|Rymfire Elementary||B||A||B||C||A||A||B (c)*||A||B||B||B||C||B||C|
|Indian Trails Middle||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||B||A||A||A||A|
|Buddy Taylor Middle||B||A||A||A||A||A||A||B||C||C||B||C||C||C||C||C|
|Flagler-Palm Coast High||C||B||C||A||D||B||B||B||A||B||B||C||B||B||B||C|
(*) 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.