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Midyear Evaluation Shows Improvement, But Some Duval Students Still Not Reading At Grade Level

Cyd Hoskinson

Data from Duval schools officials  released Tuesday reveals mixed results for how most students are doing halfway through the school year.

According to midyear assessments, while some students are improving, the district still has cause for concern as some students are still not reading at grade level and might not be prepared to take state tests in March.

School Board Chair Paula Wright said the data gives board members a chance to redirect resources to failing students.

“We have an opportunity to purposefully target those schools and then even dig a little deeper in terms of which classrooms and which students in those schools,” she said.


Middle schoolers are doing better in most areas. Over the last few years, board members have  had concerns about middle school performanceand dwindling enrollment. The board has devoted more professional development to middle school teachers and reading coaches to the schools.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

Some schools with a history of D and F grades are improving, like Hyde Park Elementary. Hyde Park, which serves grades 3-5, is a “turnaround school,” meaning the state required the school district submit an improvement plan. Midyear data shows third and fifth-graders are doing better in reading, which might lead Hyde Park to a C grade. If it does, the district won’t have to submit another improvement plan.

Literacy is also improving across the district. For instance, 58 percent of fourth-graders are on track to meeting or exceeding grade level, compared to 43 percent of fourth-graders at this time two years ago.


Overall, third-graders are doing worse in reading. At this time last year, 37 percent of county students were on track to reading at grade level. This year 35 percent  of third-graders are reading on grade level. If third-graders don’t pass state tests in March, they won’t be promoted to fourth grade, which is why Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the district is sending additional support staff to those students.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

Lake Forest Elementary, also a turnaround school, has  just 28 percent of third grade students on track to performing on grade level. It’s third graders are also doing worse in math than last year’s.

And Vitti is concerned about students leaving charter schools Valor and Virtue academies. The single-gender middle and high schools closed last month. The schools served 350 students and more than 100 of them enrolled in Duval’s two single-gender Butler leadership academies. Even though teachers will only have those students for about two months before state tests, their performance will still count toward the schools’ grades.

Schools to Watch

Vitti has also compiled a list of schools to closely monitor due to their midyear data, which includes not only low-performing schools, but high-performing schools that have had an influx of new students, lower-than-expected performance or leadership changes.

For example, Vitti cited B-school Mandarin Middle.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

“I don’t anticipate the school grade tremendously dropping, but we have seen an increase in disciplinary issues at Mandarin,” Vitti said. “We’ve seen data that is flat or moving in the wrong direction.”

Vitti’s list includes 39 elementary schools, nine middle schools and three high schools. This doesn't include turnaround schools.  [slide with this data]

He said he’ll be meeting with principals of the watchlist schools and providing additional support like extended after school programming.

Strategic Abandonment

Wright said the midyear data gives board members an opportunity to look at the programs offered at schools and decide if they should be dropped or replicated elsewhere.

“Either put more dollars in the programs that are helping our students or find other programs that could help our students succeed better,” she said.

The board’s policy review committee is meeting Friday to discuss strategically abandoning programs that aren’t serving students.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.