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Bucking State Trend, Flagler School Grades Stay Strong, But So Does Criticism

| July 11, 2012

Destination Flagler.

The Florida Department of Education released the dreaded annual school grades today. Flagler County schools can take heart. As a whole, they did better than the rest of the state, and held their own rather well against their own previous-year records: five schools got an A, down from six last year, and three schools got a B.

One school, Palm Harbor Academy–a charter school–got an F, making it the third year in a row that a charter school in the county has failed. In two previous years, the failing school was Heritage Academy. The two successive F’s forced the Flagler County School Board to close the school at the end of the last school year. The pressure is now on Palm Harbor to avoid that fate. This was the first year that Palm Harbor was awarded a grade. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run.

Flagler County’s other charter, Imagine at Town Center, raised its grade from a C last year to an A this year.

The grades are not yet out for Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast High School, both of which scored a B last year.

Among the traditional public schools, Belle Terre Elementary continued its streak of A’s going back to its very first year in 2006. That’s seven straight years, an unparalleled record for any school in the county, though Old Kings Elementary has had As in seven of the last eight years, including this year. Indian Trails Middle School could have rivaled Belle Terre’s record. Indian Trails had been carrying an A since it opened in 2006. It dropped to a B this year. Bunnell Elementary returned to an A after a two-year absence. Wadsworth Elementary maintained its A. And Buddy Taylor Middle School dropped to a B. Belle Terre Elementary’s principal, Stephen Hinson, is now Buddy Taylor Middle’s principal. He moved there late in the school year, replacing Winnie Oden, who moved to Pathways, the alternative school (just renamed Everest).

“We are extremely pleased with how our schools performed this year,” the school district said in a statement. “We had a significantly higher percentage of schools earning an A or B rating this year than the state. It should be noted that this was all accomplished in the face of higher standards set forth by the Florida Department of Education. Even with the higher standards, 100 percent of our traditional public schools earned either an A or B letter grade in comparison to the state which only had 69 percent of its schools earning an A or B. 56 percent of our elementary, middle, and charter schools earned an A in comparison to the state which only had 43 percent of its schools score in this category.”

Statewide, the number of elementary and middle schools with an A dropped precipitously this year as the percentage of schools making a D or F nearly doubled. A schools dropped by more than 300, from 1,481 in 2011 to 1,124 this year. Every other grade level saw an increase. The percentage of D and F schools went from 6 percent in 2011 to 11 percent this year. But Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson found some comfort in the numbers.

“I am particularly pleased that it is the first time that we have included students who are just learning English and students with disabilities in the school grade performance component,” Robinson said in a statement. “It is important that we measure our schools by the performance of all students, since that is the most accurate and fair way to represent our diverse state.”

Because of the inclusion of students with disabilities and English language learners, the State Board of Education approved a policy keeping all schools from dropping more than a letter grade. The schools in Tuesday’s report included the non-high school grades of some combination schools as well as elementary and middle schools.

Florida has raised expectations for school grades five times in the past ten years, according to the state Department of Education, but only as measured against the state’s own standards. This year, when it raised standards to be more in line with national standards, scores fell drastically. To keep that drop from being reflected in school grades, the state board agreed to create an artificial floor, thus ensuring that no school would drop more than one letter grade from the previous year. The ploy took a price on the test’s credibility, and amplified the voices of its critics.

“The formula to calculate school grades is extremely elaborate and complicated,” Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the teachers union, said. “The State Board of Education has changed the proficiency levels and point requirements used to calculate school grades numerous times over the years. One year’s “A” could be the next year’s “C” based solely on a formula calculation. These changes make it virtually impossible to compare and judge the quality of public schools.”

Ford said that school grades have fluctuated because the state board and the state education department have initiated too many changes simultaneously without giving districts and teachers the time needed to adjust the curriculum and instruction. Along with changing the calculation formula, they have made the tests more difficult, instituted higher passing scores and required computerized testing. All of these changes and requirements occurred as the Legislature decreased funding to school districts.

“The expanded uses of the flawed FCAT to retain students, evaluate teachers and administrators, and rank schools and districts call into question the tremendous academic gains our students, teachers and schools have achieved,” Ford said. “There have been too many errors and subjective judgments in the FCAT-devised accountability system for parents, educators and the public to find it credible and constructive.”

Flagler County School Grades, 2001-2016

School2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 20092010 2011201220132014201520162017
Bunnell ElementaryCCAAABBAABBAB (C)*ABCC
Belle Terre ElementaryAAAAAAAAAABB
Rymfire ElementaryBABCAAB (c)*ABBB
Phoenix AcademyCCClosed
Palm Harbor****FN.A.ABFD
Indian Trails MiddleAAAAAAAAAABB
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.

9 Responses for “Bucking State Trend, Flagler School Grades Stay Strong, But So Does Criticism”

  1. BTES Teacher says:

    “Among the traditional public schools, Belle Terre Elementary continued its streak of A’s going back to its very first year in 2006. That’s seven straight years, an unparalleled record for any school in the county…”

    Go BTES Bobcats!!!

    Amazing job to the students and faculty at Belle Terre Elementary School. The fact that we kept our ‘A’ with the increased rigor of FCAT and the changed cut scores is testament not only to those two groups, but also to the leadership of Stephen Hinson. While I am certain that he will do amazing things at Buddy Taylor Middle School, his leadership and dedication to the students will be greatly missed at BTES. Thanks also goes, in no small part, to our former Reading Coach, April Imperio. Her dedication to excellence and commitment to students was an inspiration to the entire faculty at BTES. Her drive to make sure that we were reaching and growing ALL students resulted in programs that have been copied by other schools because of their effectiveness. For years, she has dedicated herself to our Bobcats and that shows with the consistent ‘A’ grades.

    Congrats to the entire district for the amazing job that our administrations, faculties, and staffs do to raise student achievement every day, every way.

  2. palmcoaster says:

    Away with charter schools!
    Proven not to work. Just a masqueraded “for profit” business funded my taxes, supposedly to be invested in our kids education. Just the conservative manipulation to privatize all our taxes pay for, in this country for the benefit and wealth of more corporations. Is just outsourcing our education as well. Our fellow men that will vote for this man will be digging their own graves unless they are the 1% :

  3. Lefy Loon says:

    The schools get an A as compared with what? other public schools?

    all except for the source, the video is compelling about public school education.

    I suggest we have a good old fashioned history challenge like in a jeopardy format where students compete and answer simple questions about American history and founding principles. That would be telling. How about a good old fashioned spelling bee where all the kids compete. Let the community examine these children and come out from behind the steel fences and doors.

  4. Ryan M says:

    Only spelling bee’s and History challenges? I would struggle to pass for sure…

    Now if you also make math and science an option, I’m in (:

    I like being able to see how the school system is doing. Good article Mr. Tristam.

  5. Another BTES Teacher says:

    “And Buddy Taylor Middle School dropped to a B. Belle Terre Elementary’s principal, Stephen Hinson, is now Buddy Taylor Middle’s principal. He moved there late in the school year, replacing Winnie Oden, who moved to Pathways, the alternative school (just renamed Everest).”

    Just a correction Belle Terre Elementary’s principal, Stehpen Hinson, was at Belle Terre Elementary school for the entire school year. Mr. HInson and the amazing faculty and staff deserve all the credit for the continued success of BTES. He did not move to BTMS until after the students returned home for the summer. He should not be associated with the declining school grade for BTMS. Ms. Oden was the principal responsible at BTMS for the entire 2011-2012 school year. Although we will miss his leadership and drive for excellence, I am confident he will do great things for BTMS. BTMS and BTES will be celebrating their successes together next year, under the guidance of great principals!

  6. Outsider says:

    Why doesn’t Pathways (Everest) not get a grade? I might point out, Palmcoaster, that Imagine, a charter school got an “A” this year. My daughter has been going there since it opened. She is starting at FPC this fall and will be in honors classes. How is this an example of “not working?”

  7. Liana G says:

    Not too long ago, I was required to observe a teacher administering the FAIR test to a 1st grader. During the testing, on three occasions, the teacher had to stop the student at a break point to address the rest of the students in the class (they were doing what normal kids generally do when the adults around them are not looking). Each time the student was made to stop, the child would slump/hunch over and the voice pitch also dropped – making it difficult to hear. The test score was high but definitely not valid. After the test, I asked the teacher about collaborating with other 1st grade teachers to make administering the test easy for teachers (splitting the class among the other teachers so that the test can be done in a quiet environment and the results valid and reliable. This would also allow for the teacher to test more students in a day). The teacher said it would be ideal but union rules prevent them from engaging in this type of collaborating. So the students, teachers, schools, parents all have to suffer. Why?

    So here I am, now residing in the great state of NY and I’m checking out the job prospects in the education field of private and NFP/charters. Education requirements: bachelor or master degree and teacher certifications. The application process entails filling out and submitting the online employment form along with a mandatory cover letter and resume. If selected, you will be required to prepare and teach a 20 minute lesson to a class where you will be observed by the administrators. If selected after this process, be prepared to spend an entire school day teaching in various classrooms where you will be observed by the teachers. Impressive……

  8. Bronx Guy says:

    Yes the results have improved because the scores were dumbed down.

  9. thinkforyourself says:

    Actually Bronx Guy the cut scores were raised this year.

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