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Duval School District Earns B Grade; 2 Schools To Be Run By Hired Operator

Lindsey Kilbride

Just under half of Duval’s schools earned A or B grades, and when C grades are factored in, 87 percent of the district’s schools are average or better, according to annual state numbers released on Wednesday. Duval remained an overall B for the fourth year in a row.

“We continue to improve and move forward,” said Superintendent Patricia Willis in an emailed statement. “Duval is like a team that wins a few more games each year, and each year we get closer to the championship. This is a district improving student outcomes every year.”

Several factors go into school grades, including standardized test scores, graduation rates and whether a school has shown improvement.

The state’s rules for improving D and F schools have become stricter in recent years, leaving districts with fewer allowed turn-around methods and less time before the state intervenes.

See how any public school along the First Coast or in Florida performed.

 See How Your School Did: Search WJCT's School Grades Database

Low-performing Lake Forest Elementary, Matthew Gilbert Middle School and Northwestern Middle all had to earn C grades this year or the state would require them to be either shut down or taken over by a charter school company or another external operator.

Lake Forest dropped from a D to an F, Northwestern remained a D and Matthew Gilbert made the needed C.

“I’m very proud of the results at Matthew Gilbert,” said Willis, who previously served as principal of that school. “While turning Northwestern and Lake Forest over to an external operator was not the result we sought, we will continue to work collaboratively with our external partner to improve outcomes at these schools.”

This fall, Lake Forest and Northwestern will be taken over by the company Educational Directions, which the School Board chose in January.

Educational Directions has managed several schools in Florida, including Duval’s Northshore K-8, helping bring it from a D in 2010 to a B the next year. A district analysis in January showed the company’s strength is improving the grades of schools in high-poverty areas.    

Of the company’s work within the state, 91 percent of its managed schools increased at least one letter grade within a year.

All five of the middle schools the company has operated saw improved student mastery of science and social studies. But concerns about Educational Directions highlighted in the district’s analysis included inconsistent improvement in English and math.

Under its contract, the Duval County Public School District will continue to support operations at the schools including technology, custodial services, dining services, bus transportation and school safety. Educational Directions will take over personnel management including the selection, supervision and evaluation of school leadership and teachers.

Hiring will follow the district’s normal processes as defined in policy and in collective bargaining agreements.

Based on the schools’ needs, Duval will pay Educational Directions no more than $341,000 per school for the first year.

In addition, the school board had hiredconsulting firm Turnaround Solutions for $480,000 to help improve the two schools now being taken over, along with other low-performing schools: Arlington Heights Elementary, George Washington Carver Elementary, Gregory Drive Elementary, Ramona Boulevard Elementary, Arlington Middle School and Matthew Gilbert Middle School.

Arlington Heights and Matthew Gilbert improved from Ds to Cs, Ramona Boulevard improved from an F to a D, and George Washington Carver, Gregory Drive and Arlington Middle remained Ds.

This upcoming school year Arlington Middle, Gregory Drive and George Washington Carver will have to make Cs or the state will require them too, to be either shut down or taken over by a charter school company or another external operator, the Duval County School district confirmed Thursday. 

The district is unsure if Ramona Boulevard will also be added to that list. 

In addition the distrct is in talks with the Florida Department of Education about what to do about low-performing Somerset Prepapatory Academy charter school. It's made  two Fs and three Ds over the past five years. 

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.