While Manatee County school district administrators and board members struggle to improve communications and trust with the public, they and teachers and students can bask in the glow of several very good developments on the education front.
Striving to improve the district's mediocre standing among Florida's school systems, Manatee County can now boast several important high marks on benchmark tests.
High school seniors have bested the state and national averages on the Standardized Admission Test, a key grade to college admission. And Manatee Technical Institute graduates far surpass the average national certification exam score for certified medical assistants -- a vital statistic for the county's health care sector, in need of a larger, highly qualified workforce.
While Manatee County's school district has taken a public beating over student achievement during the past few years, these new test scores serve as a reminder that teachers are teaching and youngsters are learning -- with many accomplishing on a grand scale. And they deserve applause.
Our seniors taking the SAT out-scored everyone else in critical reading, writing and math -- all critical to success in the global marketplace.
Manatee seniors boosted their scores in critical reading from 487 last year to 508 this year -- topping the state average of 492 and national mark of 496.
The math marks were just as impressive a gain, from 483 to 504 -- above the state average by 14 points. And on writing -- pivotal to communications in an ever-expanding network of information services -- Manatee's seniors logged a 492 score, well ahead of the 475 national mark.
Just as significant, Manatee Technical Institute graduates as certified medical assistants passed the national certification exam in remarkable numbers -- 95 percent of the class versus a nationwide average of only 69 percent.
That's on the first attempt at the test, so those students were obviously well-trained in this field. Graduates can provide clinical care (injections and blood work, for example) as well as administrative services (billing and coding).
MTI also enjoys the rare distinction of being only one of eight schools in the country with an orthopedic technology program recognized by the National Association of Orthopaedic Technologists.
The Manatee County school district, which operates MTI, is indeed providing this region with highly qualified graduates for immediate employment.
And MTI is hoping to expand its science, technology, engineering and math educational opportunities by winning a $28.7 million grant from the federal Race to the Top program.
One of the most intriguing elements to the grant application is additional programs in elementary schools, thus incubating more youngsters into these critical fields. Grant winners are expected to be announced in January,
Kudos to Manatee County teachers and students for these outstanding accomplishments.