School grades for Florida’s elementary and middle schools are out and across the state both the number of A schools and F schools have seen a sizable increase.
The Florida Department of Education released the results Friday morning.
Across the state, 962 elementary and middle schools earned A’s this year, up from 767 schools last year. However, the number of schools earning F’s also increased statewide from 106 last year to 178 this year.
The increase in F-grades this year was reflected in Duval County Public Schools where a total of 22 traditional public and charter schools across the district receive an F. That’s up from 11 last year.
Thirty-two public and charter schools in the district--roughly a quarter--received A’s this year. Last year, there were 32 schools that received A’s as well.
Friday morning, Florida Deputy Commissioner of Accountability Juan Copa said the increase in F scores across the state was due in part to a legislative decision this year to change the minimum number of students required to calculate a score from 30 to 10.
“It’s been now reduced to 10, so we’re having more schools graded this year,” he said. “Many of those are high-performing schools but some of those are low-performing schools.”
In Duval, six of the schools that received F’s this year were charter schools, which typically house fewer students than traditional public schools. Two of the district’s A schools were charter schools this year.
Copa also cited the state’s safety net provision as another factor in the increase in F grades.
The provision which protects schools from dropping more than one letter grade within a year was implemented last year due concern over the reliability of the state’s grading system. The grades, based primarily on student assessment scores, determine future funding for schools as well as the future of the schools, themselves. Schools that receive too many consecutive F grades in a short period are in danger of being closed.
This year, 192 elementary and middle schools statewide benefited from the safety net. In Duval County, 27 schools benefited this year from the safety net.
Overall, Duval saw grade improvement in 21 of its elementary and middle schools. Sixty schools across the district dropped by at least one letter grade.
The district saw four schools improve two or more letter grades between 2013 and 2014, with Southside Estates Elementary School making the biggest leap from a D to an A.
Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said he wasn’t surprised by the grades.
"As superintendent, I don't wait for grades to be released to say we need to make a change. Most of these schools I anticipated either through interim data or the early release of scores," he said.
Vitti said many of the changes aimed at improving school performance are already in the works, such as a series of recently launched initiatives aimed at the district's 36 lowest performing schools; and the more than 80 principal switches made in the district since he began his tenure as superintendent.
"We've changed over half our principals in the past year and a half and that's all about putting the right leader at the right school based on the needs of that school," he said.
He said the district does plan to focus on more early reading intervention and computer-based learning next year.
Across the First Coast, the number of A-schools increased since last year. Fourteen more schools received A's than in 2013.
Among highlights cited by the department data include:
· Baker County increased the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary grade of A by one school in 2014, up from last year when the county had no schools with an A” Baker County has no schools with a preliminary grade of F for this year.
· Clay County increased the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary grade of A by eight schools this year, with 58 percent of Clay County schools now earning an A compared to 31 percent in 2013. In addition, two Clay County schools improved two letter grades between this year and last year. Clay County has no schools with a preliminary grade of F.
· Columbia County increased the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary grade of A by three schools in 2014, with 38 percent of Columbia County schools now earning an A compared to 17 percent in 2013.
· Nassau County increased the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary grade of A by four schools in 2014, with 88 percent of Nassau County schools now earning an A compared to 38 percent in 2013. In addition, one Nassau County school, Yulee Middle School, improved two letter grades from a C to an A between 2013 and 2014. None of Nassau County’s school’s received preliminary grades of C, D or F.
· Putnam County increased the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary grade of A by one school in 2014, with 13 percent of Putnam County schools now earning an A compared to 7 percent in 2013. In addition, two Putnam County schools improved two letter grades between 2013 and 2014.
· St. Johns County increased the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary grade of A by two schools in 2013-14, with 61 percent of St. Johns County schools now earning an A compared to 56 percent in 2012-13. St. Johns County has no schools with a preliminary grade of F.
High school grades for the state will be released later this year.
This is the final year school grades will be calculated using the current formula. The new grading system next year will account for the new Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment which will replace the FCAT. However, schools wouldn’t receive sanctions or penalties as a result of school grades issued in 2015, because the state plans to use the first year of the new test as a baseline to measure schools.
You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.