News Column

Florida High School Grades Improving

Dec 21, 2012

Karen Yi, Sun Sentinel

More high schools in Florida earned the coveted A grade, according to preliminary grades released by the Florida Department of Education Friday.

Broward County high schools, for the first time since the state start issuing graders in 1999, received no Ds or Fs. A record 27 high schools received As, including all 17 that were A-rated last year plus 10 more.

Among the schools showing big improvement were Piper High in Sunrise and Hallandale High, which both received their first A's.

Last year's only F-rated school, Parkway Academy, a charter school in Miramar, improved to a C. But it's too late to matter. The school district closed the school down last spring due to years of low performance.

In Palm Beach County, 15 high schools received A's compared to 8 schools last year. Only one school, Leadership Academy in West Palm Beach, received an F versus none in 2011.

Most of the 30 high schools improved or maintained the same grades as last year with only four dropping their scores.

No high school earned D's, 7 got C's and 7 received B's.

"I was very, very impressed that we had schools move up," said school board member Chuck Shaw. "For the schools to be able to show growth with the new way they were being graded is really a compliment to the work that teachers are doing."

One of the biggest jumps in the district was South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach that rose from a D to an A.

Jim Kidd, president of the school, attributed the improvement partly to a Saturday tutoring program they launched last year. "We really pulled out all the stops," Kidd said, adding that the D they received in 2011 was "traumatizing" and helped boost their efforts to improve.

Meanwhile, in the state, 231 high schools received an A grade in 2012 compared to 148 last year.

However, the number of schools that earned B's declined from 223 to 154 and the number of school's earning C's rose from 72 to 89.

Less schools earned D's in 2012 than 2011 and only three schools earned F's this year compared to 6 last year.

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart cautioned against making strict comparisons of this year's grades with last year as some components of the grades were more rigorous and others had been held in abeyance.

But, Stewart told reporters Friday, "overall we are seeing improved performance."

Students had to master more content to earn passing grades on the state Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests this year. The point totals that determined the grades also included Algebra I results for the first time. Other changes included factoring in the grades of English-language learners after only one year of language instruction.

However, there were also ways that the grading was easier this week. No school could drop more than one letter grade, science calculations were not included, and schools did not drop a letter grade if fewer than half of a school's lowest-performing students improved.



Source: (c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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