Duval School Grades Improve; Fate Of Two Middle Schools Up In The Air

Jun 28, 2017

Duval County Superintendent Patricia Willis announces improved school grades, Wednesday.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Almost 90 percent of Duval County schools earned an A, B, or C grade, as compared to 75 percent the year before. However, with state grades released Wednesday, the fate of two low-performing middle schools is uncertain under a controversial new state law.

The Duval County School Distrct maintained a B grade average for the third year in a row.

“Duval is certainly moving in the right direction,” interim Superintendent Patricia Willis said. “As we look at the performance of our schools, we had a major increase in the number of A’s earned.”

Fifteen more traditional and charter schools made an A than last year. And the district cut the number of D schools by more than half to 16.

Compared to the six other largest school districts in the state, Duval ranks second highest for its B grade, tying with Miami-Dade.

Three Northwest Jacksonville middle schools — Ribault, Matthew Gilbert and Northwestern — would have had to make Cs to be in the clear from state closure under a new law. Last year the schools had Ds and only Ribault improved to a C this year.  

The so-called “Schools of Hope” law gives failing schools less time to improve before the state forces them to close. The law also financially incentivizes privately operated charters to open nearby. But districts don’t have state guidance as to exactly when closures must happen.

Gilbert and Northwestern improved by 37 and 40 points respectively, putting them just a few points from C’s. Chief Academic Officer Mason Davis said hopes the state will work with the district.

“We’re very confident with the tremendous growth that we’ve seen in those schools that the state department will allow us to continue our current turnaround plans for both of our schools,” Davis said.

The schools had been operating under a “hybrid turnaround” plan to improve their grades, which were all “D’s.” The plan consisted of the national nonprofit called The New Teacher Project training teachers.

Across the state, schools earning an A or B increased to 57 percent, up from 46 percent, with elementary schools seeing the largest percentage point increase in A schools, as reported by News4Jax.

School grades are made up several components, including standardized test scores, graduation rate and improvement.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride