Sarasota Schools Graded A,
Manatee C, by state
Published: Friday, July 8, 2016
Department of Education releases assessments earlier than expected
By Shelby Webb
Schools and district letter grades were released by the Florida Department of Education on Friday, earlier than expected.
The Sarasota County School District was rated A for the second year, while the Manatee County School District slipped from a B to a C grade.
Statewide only three districts were given A's, while 35 received B's, 27 received C's and two received D grades. That's a big change from the 2015 baseline grades, which saw 22 districts rated as A's, 29 as B's, 13 as C's and three as D's.
School district offices in both Sarasota and Manatees were closed this week.
Pam Stewart, the Florida Department of Education's commissioner, said schools statewide improved in their letter grades despite more rigorous learning standards.
“It is clear that our focus on Florida's most struggling students is paying off, especially in our 'D' and 'F' schools, 58 percent of which increased their grade in 2016,” Stewart said in a news release. “The great benefit of our state's accountability system is that it constantly shines a light on areas that need improvement.”
In Sarasota, 22 schools earned A's, 16 were rated as B's and 12 were graded as C's.
In Manatee, five were rated A, 16 were rated B, 25 were rated C, nine were graded D and five were given F grades.
Among the five F grades are two charter schools — The Visib Men Academy and Just For Girls — which were founded to help struggling students from diverse backgrounds. Because Just For Girls has gotten an F grade for several years, its charter could be revoked by the state.
Three of the biggest drops in grade letter in Sarasota County were at Sarasota Military Academy, Glenallen Elementary and Alta Vista Elementary, which all went from A grades to a C grades this year. Emma E. Booker Elementary improved by a letter grade, moving from a D to a C. Four A schools went to B's this year; one B school became an A; two changed from B's to C's.
Blackburn Elementary in Manatee County saw one of the biggest jumps in grade letter, going from a D in 2015 to a B this year. Similarly, Palm View Elementary went from an F to a C. Annie Lucy William Elementary tumbled from an A to a C. Nine schools went from A's to B's; nine went from B's to C's; one went from C to B; four went from D's to C's; three went from F's to D's.
Schools that earn high grades are eligible for extra funding, while schools rated F are often subject to state oversight.
Lawmakers changed the way school grades are doled out during the 2014 session, but this is the first year the new grading calculations went into effect.
Schools are graded on 11 measures, mostly related to statewide standardized test scores and learning gains shown through those scores. Learning gains measure improvement in core subject areas such as math and reading.
Changes to the grading metrics — as well as new learning standards and standardized tests rolled out in the 2014-2015 school year — made some local educators worry about grades.
Shirley Brown, chairwoman of the Sarasota County School Board, said she had been anxious waiting for the grades to come out.
“I know there are a lot of teachers and principals breathing a sigh of relief,” Brown said. “We were very concerned about this one, just because it was a new test and not setting the grades, there was a lot of anxiety. I know a lot of teachers concerned, but a lot of them I've talked to already were pleased with their grades. I'm very glad we stayed an A district. I think it goes to show we're working and keeping our eye on the ball; (we) want to do things even better next year.”
Some parents and education leaders disagree with how the grades are calculated and say giving schools a letter grade is an oversimplification and does not accurately portray how schools are doing.
In a joint press release, Orange and Seminole county school leaders said they will “continue to advocate for a more accurate and improved accountability system where schools are not simply labeled with a single letter grade.”
Charlie Kennedy, a Manatee County School Board member who used to be a teacher, said the grades put unnecessary strain on schools.
“I think it's a flawed process. It's a constantly moving target from year to year,” Kennedy. “People might see a grade and make a decision with that, but they're fuzzy on details. Many of us in education think the whole (Florida Standards Assessment) testing system is flawed, so we have a flawed testing system used in a flawed grading formula to give us flawed grades.
“We've got to treat each kid individual and treat each school as individual. We shouldn't apply these broad strokes and acting like they're widgets of the same thing.”