Education officials tout ‘monumental’ improvement in school grades

This screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet from the Florida Department of Education shows that the Pinellas County School District has maintained a B grade for five consecutive years.

The Florida Department of Education marked the 20th anniversary of school grades when it issued the 2018-2019 school and district report cards on July 11.

Statewide, the percentage of schools earning an A or B increased to 63%. In Pinellas County, 56% earned an A or a B compared to nearly 50% last year. On the other end of the spectrum, 15 schools scored an F in the state. One of those was Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg, which has earned an F two years in a row.

Officials with Pinellas County Schools say overall, the district made “monumental progress,” with 89% of schools maintaining or improving their school grade. Pinellas County Schools remains a B district for the fifth consecutive year, demonstrating increases in eight of 11 district grade categories.

These categories, which the Department of Education uses to calculate grades, include student achievement and learning gains on statewide, standardized assessments and high school graduation rate.

Superintendent Michael Grego is pleased with the district’s and its schools’ report cards.

“I am so proud of our continued progress over the last seven years,” he said in a press release. “Our results in the 2018-2019 school year demonstrate the greatest increases in student achievement, with the largest number of schools improving their school grade over the last decade.

“It is because of the daily work and dedication of our principals, teachers and board members to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of our students that we are within reach of being an A district for the first time.”

Local officials spotlighted the grades of schools located in the “Transformation Zone,” which consists of low-performing schools that need more support to improve their grades. Officials say 100 percent of those schools maintained or improved their letter grade. However, one of those schools is Lakewood Elementary, which maintained its grade of F.

Other Transformation Zone schools that maintained their grades include Gulfport Elementary with a D, Maximo Elementary in St. Petersburg with a C, Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg with a C, and Sandy Lane Elementary in Clearwater with a D.

Transformation Zone schools that improved their grades include Bay Point Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a D to a B, Campbell Park Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a F to a C, Fairmont Park Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a D to a C, John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg going from a D to a C, Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg going from a D to a B, Pinellas Park Elementary going from a D to a C, Ponce de Leon Elementary in Clearwater going from a F to a C and New Heights Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a D to a C.

Local officials pointed out some of the key highlights in this year’s school grades, such as 94% of schools earning an A, B or C. In addition, 89% maintained or increased their grades.

Eight schools increased by two letter grades, including some in the Transformation Zone. They were Bay Point Elementary, Campbell Park Elementary, Ponce de Leon Elementary and Meadowlawn Middle School.

Other schools increasing their grades by two letters were Curlew Creek Elementary in Palm Harbor, Garrison-Jones Elementary in Dunedin, Leila Davis Elementary in Clearwater and Shore Acres Elementary in St. Petersburg.

Seven schools increased to an A. They were Curlew Creek Elementary, Leila Davis Elementary, Garrison-Jones Elementary, Oakhurst Elementary in Largo, Ozona Elementary in Palm Harbor, Shore Acres Elementary and Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Petersburg.

Seventeen schools increased to a B, including Azalea Elementary in St. Petersburg, Bardmoor Elementary in Seminole, Bay Point Elementary in St. Petersburg, Belcher Elementary in Clearwater, Dunedin Elementary, Eisenhower Elementary in Clearwater, Fuguitt Elementary in Largo, Lakeview Fundamental Elementary in St. Petersburg, Lynch Elementary in St. Petersburg, McMullen-Booth Elementary in Clearwater, , Northwest Elementary in St. Petersburg, San Jose Elementary in Dunedin, Seminole Elementary and Lake St. George Elementary in Palm Harbor.

Three other schools increased their grades to a B and those were Meadowlawn Middle in St. Petersburg, Morgan Fitzgerald Middle in Largo and Largo Middle School.

Not all the news was good. Twelve schools dropped at least one grade, including Azalea Middle School in St. Petersburg going from a C to a D, Frontier Elementary in Clearwater going from an A to a B, High Point Elementary in Clearwater going from a C to a D, Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a B to a C, Lealman Avenue Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a C to a D, Northshore Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a B to a C, Osceola Middle School in Seminole going from a B to a C, Pinellas Park High going from a B to a C, Sawgrass Elementary in St. Petersburg going from a B to a C, Sunset Hills Elementary in Tarpon Springs going from an A to a B, Tarpon Springs Middle School going from a B to a C and Southern Oak Elementary in Largo going from an A to a C.

Two news schools received their first-ever report cards. Midtown Academy in St. Petersburg and Richard O. Jacobson Technical High in Seminole both received a C.

“I want to sincerely thank the families, students and community who put their trust in Pinellas County Schools. I am excited by the innovative programming and endless opportunities our district provides. We will continue to work tirelessly to support each and every student on their pathway to success,” Grego said.

For more information about Pinellas County Schools, visit www.pcsb.org.

For more information on grades, visit www.fldoe.org/accountability/accountability-reporting/school-grades/.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.