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Flagler Schools Take a Beating as All But One See Grades Drop; District Maintains B

| July 8, 2016

School Board Chairman Colleen Conklin and Superintendent Jacob Oliva at a presentation before district staff at the beginning of the last school year. (© FlaglerLive)

School Board Chairman Colleen Conklin and Superintendent Jacob Oliva at a presentation before district staff at the beginning of the last school year. (© FlaglerLive)

On June 21 the Flagler County School Board reviewed Superintendent Jacob Oliva’s evaluation and applauded him for the 94 percent average he earned from the five board members. It turns out to be the district’s only A of note this year.


For the first time in the 15-year history of school and district grades, Flagler County schools did not earn a single A in 2016. Nor did any school improve its grade from last year. Only one traditional public school, Rymfire Elementary, managed to maintain its grade from 2015. Imagine School at Town Center, the charter school, also maintained its B. Every other school dropped by at least one grade. Old Kings Elementary dropped by two, from an A to a C.

For the first time in their 11-year history, Belle Terre Elementary and Indian Trail Middle schools have lost their A rating, each falling to B.

The district managed to hold on to its district-wide B rating for the fourth year in a row, though it did so barely, with 55 percent of total points possible. Two fewer points and it would have been a C-rated district.

School officials were expecting bad news, not least because the grading system’s method has been altered innumerably since it was instituted in the late 1990s and its credibility is increasingly suspect because of changes, errors and inexact comparisons between tests from year to year. “Waiting to see how Flagler does but anticipating the wors[t],” Colleen Conklin, who chairs the Flagler school board, said this morning in a brief post on her Facebook page. “The School grading formula continues to lose credibility. Shameful.”

Conklin made reference to a joint statement by superintendents Barbara Jenkins of Orange County and Walt Griffin of Seminole County, who asked parents to keep certain factors in mind as they take in the new grades. The superintendents did not discredit the grades, but they said they should be seen as “baseline year” grades that “reflect learning gains made by students which could not be captured from the 2014-2015 FSA as there were no previous, similar tests to use for comparison.” FSA refers to the Florida Standards Assessments, the latest incarnation of the state’s standardized testing system. That system has gone through many changes and been undercut by errors and confusion.

The two superintendents were careful, however, not to question the validity of the new grades. Rather, they pointed to tougher standards. “It is important for our community, especially our parents and students, to know that learning gains are now more difficult to attain,” the two superintendents said in their joint statement. “If we see a decrease in school grades, it will likely be because of the new and complicated learning gain structure.”

Oliva echoed that analysis in an interview this morning. “It’s a new formula, it’s a new set of standards, it’s a new assessment, and I don’t think there’s a need to hit the panic button,” he said. “Obviously we want to get back to our A status. Overall we’re pleased that we maintained a B status.” He added: “We’re going to use this data to make us better.”

But he also cautioned that the way learning gains are calculated into the formula that nets those grades have changed significantly. The requirement that students make learning gains is now much more rigorous at every level, whether a student is performing below proficiency or at a top level. Students are graded on a scale of 1-5. Proficiency is a 3. If a student scored a 2 in 4th grade, that student is expected to score a 3 in 5th grade to show gains. If a student scored a 4, that student must still show gains–not necessarily a 5, but a gain within the three-tiered range of a 4. A student scoring at the top, a 5, is expected to maintain that grade. One more wrinkle: “They didn’t calculate learning gains or student growth because there was nothing to measure gains against,” Oliva said, as the tests themselves are new.

For all the grimmer results, there are also highlights the district is pointing to, such as the larger number of students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses and tests, more students enrolled in dual enrollment (in high school and college simultaneously), and a majority and increasing number of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in language arts, math and science.

But there are also persistent trouble spots, particularly among the lowest-performing, and failing, quarter of the student population.

The grades are still used by the state Department of Education as measures of individual schools’ quality. The state uses the measures to reward (or punish) schools with “bonus” dollar awards that have typically netted Flagler schools upward of half a million dollars a year. Schools use the money at their discretion, either as bonuses to faculty and staff or for capital improvements or occasional perks the regular school budget would not cover.

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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19 Responses for “Flagler Schools Take a Beating as All But One See Grades Drop; District Maintains B”

  1. Mark says:

    Common core math hits the school district!

  2. Frustrated Parent says:

    Then stop giving those horrible standardized tests and making our children’s schooling all about them. Lets get back to the basics and start teaching our kids what they need to be productive & successful adults. Teach our kids those things then test them on that. These tests are useless.

  3. IMO says:

    This is the first year of the new “School Grading Rules” (Florida Standards Assessment) as mandated by Florida Law.

    How did the rest of the Counties do under this new Grading System? Without that information one cannot make any judgement here. So let’s share some information you can find on line as to the new Florida Standards Assessment scoring procedures.

    “South Florida school grades: Fewer A’s, fewer F’s
    Scott Travis Scott TravisContact Reporter
    Sun Sentinel

    uth Florida schools received good news and bad news from the latest school grades, with fewer F’s and fewer A’s.

    The trend mirrored the state where the number of A schools dropped by a third, while the number of failing schools dropped by half.

    •Broward County had 62 A’s this year, compared to 97 last year, but the number of F’s plummeted from 28 to 12. Broward had 63 B’s, 11 C’s, 39 D’s and 10 schools with incomplete grades.

    •Palm Beach County had 62 A’s this year, down from 87 last year while F’s fell from 15 to six. The district had 48 B’s, 69 C’s, 13 D’s and 9 incomplete grades.”

    Apparently Flagler Teachers held the line. GOOD JOB FLAGLER TEACHERS.

  4. Ken Dodge says:

    Was going to post an insightful comment but I wrote my draft in cursive and alas cannot read it.

  5. Another frustrated parent says:

    I am in total agreement!! The standardized testing and that they teach to the test is horrible!! Kids are stressed … parents are stressed… teachers are stressed!! Give me a break!

  6. Ben Hogarth says:

    Standardized testing is absolutely obsolete – but I hate saying that because it implies that it was effective at one time – it wasn’t ever.

    If you want to teach kids, bring back a curriculum that entertains creative thinking and does not dictate learning according to a rigid “buffet” structure. I understand this is more in the hands of the Deparment of Edication, but at some point the rallying flag for all involved at the local level needs to be the same to get their attention.

    Standardized testing disenfranchises intelligent kids who learn differently then the “standard.” This is not to say that some still will not succeed due to lack of care or will – of course this will happen still. But when we have young adults who ultimately fail to have the ability to read sentence structure longer than two sentences and 2 syllable words, we set ourselves up for a lifetime of struggles.

    The standard is a failed system and we need major, radical reform now! Before we brainwash more generations into intellectual slavery (inability to have independent, educated thoughts)

  7. Born and Raised Here says:

    Gov. Scott recently signed into law to allow any student in Florida to attend any School they want, providing they have transportation to get there. It’s time for Flagler Schools to start recruiting good scholar students and top student – athletes to improve our academics and sport programs. If we do some renovations of our High School facilities, such as locker rooms, weight rooms, football fields, baseball fields, and practice fields Flagler County Schools could become tops in Academics and Athletics If you build it, they will come.

  8. Brad W says:

    So when our children’s grades go down, we should just blame the scoring system the teacher uses? No, we shouldn’t. And it’s not ok to blame the system when our schools’ performance drops. It’s ok, and appropriate, to hold the school leadership and staff accountable. It’s appalling to me that me have the School Board Chair, Colleen Conklin, blaming the system. We have one of the highest paid Superintendents in the state, and at that pay rate I am quite sure it would not be difficult to find a slew of quality candidates if he can not turn the boat around. And it is time for change on our School Board.

    These schools are a part if our future. Not only from the standpoint of educating children but they are a factor that draw residents which increases tax bases which allows for more teachers and improvements in our community so forth and so on.

  9. PCer says:

    The GOP controlled state legislature does not want to bring back critical thinking or creative thinking. An educated populace cannot be controlled. Think about that next time you cast a vote.

  10. PCer says:

    Check your facts on the superintendent pay. The average salary in Florida for a super in 2015-16 was $145k. He makes less than that. http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7584/urlt/1516FLDistStSalaries.xls

  11. Sherry says:

    Thanks PCer. . . Right On! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  12. Endo/Republi/Crat says:

    The Superintendent of schools should be an elected position as it was up until a few years ago.

  13. TMS says:

    … ready to move on ….. its is a grade which is a function of the very tests that everyone is deeming less than reliable and or credible as a true picture of our student’s academic ability… so why such an uproar about the school and district grade? I for one, am moving on and getting it done!

  14. Bartholomew says:

    ERC
    I’ve been here since 1992band our Superintendent was never an elected position in Flagler county during that time. I think it might not be a bad idea, but do we have qualified people to run for that position??

    Are dropping scores indicative of a school that teaches the test? Do rising and same scores indicate not teaching the test?

    Do we send a message that says we believe and validate the test system by caring what the scores are? It would be easy for school systems to brush off results except that teacher evaluations and district $$$ counts on it.

  15. footballen says:

    So our teachers make five thousand dollars a year more on average than say volusia county teachers. Well………….

  16. John Keppler says:

    I love my children’s school and the teachers who work there! I grade the school by my children’s success. keep up the GREAT!!! work! Go Rymfire Roadrunners! And thank you for investing in my children.

  17. vlok says:

    Average salary is one thing but look at the size of the districts. Duval, Dade, Orange Broward are just a few that have more than 300,000 students- we have around 15,000. No comparison!

  18. Realist says:

    Maybe its time to reflect on why Jacob Oliva gets such high grades from the school board members. It might be time to look at him and the current school board members.

  19. theevoice says:

    the more diverse the student body gets and the more single parent households that students come from, the lower the grades will be..its very simple really..

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