State considers turnaround plans for two Manatee elementary schools

eearl@bradenton.comJune 13, 2013 

MANATEE -- The State Board if Education is considering turnaround plans for two struggling Manatee County elementary schools.

The two schools -- Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary School and G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary school -- are among 58 in Florida now under state review for receiving low or failing scores.

The state education board will vote Tuesday on whether to approve the plans.

Daughtrey Elementary received an "F" in the 2011-2012 school year and G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School received a "D" in the 2011-2012 school year.

In the first school year after a school earns a grade of "F" or a second consecutive grade of "D," the school district must select a turnaround plan for the following school year.

Under new law, this is the first year the state has to approve the turnaround plans.

"Changes under the dis

trict-managed turnaround usually include things like new staff, change in curriculum and training for teachers," said Cheryl Etters, press secretary for the Florida Department of Education.

Manatee County submitted a district-managed turnaround plan for the two schools, rather than turn to other options, including re-opening as a charter school, re-opening under an external operator, hybrid options or closure.

"We chose this option because of having a new superintendent and a fresh set of eyes," said Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instruction. "We can come in and look at things differently."

Greene said the district will have full responsibility in working with the two schools.

"The district will intervene and support the schools in a much more hands-on way," Greene said.

Greene said she will spend more time in the schools, and the new director of school improvement will also be involved in the turnaround.

"Changes under the district-managed turnaround usually include things like new staff, change in curriculum and training for teachers," said Etters.

Greene said Mills' plan for implementing school data teams and leadership teams comprised of school staff will aid the district as a whole. While it is not a part of the turnaround plans, she believes it will provide the support necessary to get Manatee County schools off the turnaround lists.

The two schools "may have to change teachers or principals and look at instruction," said Julie Aranibar, school board vice chairwoman. "We need to look at what was missed or not addressed."

The State Board of Education added two new levels of intervention -- focus and priority -- with the new legislation.

Schools in priority status must update the state with evidence of progress.

Greene said State Board of Education members will visit the schools at least twice a year to check for improvement.

In the past, superintendents had to appear before the state board with updates.

"The idea was that there was no time to waste for helping students at that school," Etters said.

Etters said schools that don't improve are not necessarily subject to state takeover, but the district will have to choose another turnaround option.

"If a district-managed turnaround did not work for that school, they cannot select that option again. They would have to choose from the other options," Etters said.

A school's last resort could be closure.

"The bottom line is that we have to get them out of a 'D' or 'F' status," Greene said. "For both of those schools, it means having a high level of support for the school and teachers with modeling, time and assurance that we are here to support them. It may be bumpy at times, but we will get through this."

Grading a school is complex. It involves accumulating points for student proficiency and learning gains.

For example, if a low-performing student goes from a one to a three on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Testing, the student earns one point for proficiency, one point for learning gains and one point for improving from the bottom 25 percent of the class. Greene said a school must have 435 points to be a "C" school.

To maintain grades, schools must also elevate half of all bottom performers. A school is dropped a letter grade if it does not show an increase in scholastic performance.

At Daughtrey Elementary, only 34 percent of third-graders passed FCAT reading and math. While this reflects an improvement in reading from 2012, 66 percent of students are still failing the FCAT.

Only 25 percent of fourth-graders and 32 percent of fifth-graders passed the FCAT reading test, showing declines from 2012. For math, 37 percent of fourth-graders and 24 percent of fifth-graders passed, showing little improvement from 2012.

Test scores have also been a concern for Rogers Garden Elementary. This year, 75 percent of third-graders failed FCAT reading and math.

"We have an excellent plan moving forward," Greene said. "We have to start with a solid foundation for all schools. For schools with more challenges, we are going to have to diversify the support we offer them."

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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