Most Collier schools make good grades on state’s report card

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Through the past school year, Manatee Elementary School Principal Connie Cox had a mantra.

“You deserve what you expect.”

Tuesday, Cox said repeating that mantra paid off. Manatee Elementary School improved its school grade from a C in 2006-07 to an A in 2007-08.

“I am so excited,” she said. “We had the expectation that Manatee would be an A school. The kids kept that and the teachers kept that.”

Though she is on vacation, Cox didn’t hesitate to call the plant operator at the school to change the school’s marquee to read, “Congratulations Manatee Elementary — A school.”

The state’s report cards are in, and most Collier County schools received good news Tuesday. Of the district’s 47 schools, 24 schools received an A; eight schools received a B; eight schools received a C; four schools received a D; and three schools received an F.

In 2006-07, when the district had 44 schools receiving grades, 20 schools received an A; six schools received a B; 13 schools received a C; three schools received a D; and two schools received an F. Of the schools that have been open for more than one year, 37 maintained or improved their grade.

“There is a lot to be proud of,” Chief Instructional Officer Martha Hayes said. “All of the teachers deserve props. We provide the framework, but when the rubber meets the road, it is the teachers that make the difference.”

The district retained its B grade for the 2007-08 school year, but improved its point total from 510 points in 2006-07 to 522 points this year.

School grades are determined on a point system. Schools earn one point for each percentile of students who score high on the annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).

They also earn one point for each percentile of students who show learning gains in reading or math skills. Extra weight is given to improvement in reading skills among the lowest-performing readers in each school.

Several schools jumped two letter grades. Naples High School went from a C in 2006-07 to an A in 2007-08.

Principal Nancy Graham said she was expecting her school’s grade to jump from a C to a B, so the A grade was a welcome surprise.

“Our students worked really hard,” she said. “You have to make sure the students are placed correctly because the bottom 25 percent are going to impact the scores, but you can’t ignore the top end either. It is all about getting the kids placed appropriately and the teachers placed appropriately.”

To receive an A, a school must score 525 points or more, test at least 95 percent of eligible students, show learning gains in reading of at least half of the lowest 35 percent of reading performers and demonstrate that the learning curve of the lowest-performing quarter of students is within 10 points of the learning curve of the rest of the students.

A score of fewer than 395 points or those schools that test fewer than 90 percent of eligible students will earn the school an F.

Pinecrest Elementary School, which was in restructuring after failing to meet No Child Left Behind requirements, went from an F in 2006-07 to a C in 2007-08.

Principal Connie Helton said she was “very excited” about the news.

“This past year, we have been very focused,” she said. “There has been a lot of intensive teaching going on in the classroom.”

Helton said teachers at Pinecrest have been working closely to study data on each student month-by-month. She said she was hopeful the school would earn a C.

“We have a needy population,” she said. “But that just makes us back up and push them forward from where they are.”

Golden Terrace Elementary School joined Manatee as the two elementary schools jumping from a C grade in 2006-07 to an A in 2007-08.

Golden Terrace Principal David Glennon said he was thrilled at the A grade. He attributed the grade to several factors, including an after-school FCAT club; the implementation of professional learning communities in which teams of teachers look at test data and focus on students’ needs; and the Voyager Passport reading program, which Glennon said was particularly helpful to English Language Learners students.

Glennon said the school also has a successful coffee hour program for parents, which allowed them to get tips and strategies about how students can learn at home.

“We set really high expectations for our students,” he said. “I am just thrilled and pleased.”

Collier County boasts three A high schools.

In addition to Naples High School, Barron Collier and Gulf Coast high schools improved their school grades from a B to an A. Palmetto Ridge High School improved its grade from a C to a B this year.

But not everyone had good news on Tuesday.

Though most schools maintained or improved, some schools fell a letter grade. Golden Gate High School and the Immokalee Community School, which is a charter school, joined Immokalee High School in receiving an F grade.

Sabal Palm Elementary School went from an A in 2006-07 to a C in 2007-08. Lorenzo Walker Career and Technical High School and Lake Trafford Elementary School went from a C in 2006-07 to a D in 2007-08.

Superintendent Dennis Thompson said there is some silver lining in some of the grades, though. He pointed to Immokalee High School. Although the school received an F for the 2007-08 school year, it improved its point total from 368 to 391, just four points short of a D. Golden Gate High School fell just 11 points, and is one point short of a D.

Thompson said he believes that part of the drop in Golden Gate’s grade could be attributed to a fluctuating school population.

The purpose of school grades is to determine the performance of students on the FCAT and the learning gains students make from one year to the next.

The student performance piece is determined by how students scored on the reading, math, science and writing portions of the test.

The learning gains piece is determined by how students performed in reading and math, and by progress in the two subjects made by the lowest-performing 25 percent of students, which includes those students with limited English skills and those with special needs.

Schools that improve a letter grade or maintain an A grade will receive $85 per student in school recognition money. This is a decrease from $100 per student given to schools in recent years, The school recognition money can go to faculty bonuses or school supplies but teachers and staff need to come to a consensus on how the money will be used.

Schools that receive an F grade will face a review by a team assigned by the Department of Education.

The team will review the school’s results and determine the cause for the lower performance. If a school receives a grade of F for two years in a four-year period, the State Board of Education will intervene in the school’s operation and recommend changes.

Hayes said she will give School Board members a presentation in August that details trends the district has seen since the FCAT exam began during the 1998-99 school year. The presentation will include how the district will respond to the challenges.

Hayes said some of the results are surprising.

“We will discuss how to respond to trends we are seeing at each school,” she said. “What works for Big Cypress might not work for Lake Park.”

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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