4 of 7 Manatee high schools get 'A' grades from the state

eearl@bradenton.comDecember 18, 2013 

Braden River High School was one of four high schools in the Manatee County School District that received 'A' grades from the state.

Four of seven high schools in the Manatee school district have earned ‘A’ grades from the state, the district announced Wednesday. The other three schools earned ‘B’s’.

The grades are included in the Florida Department of Educations’s 2013 High School Accountability Grades.

These are the final grades for the 2012-13 school year.

Earning ‘As’ were Braden River, Lakewood Ranch and Southeast high school and Manatee School for the Arts. Palmetto High went from a ‘C’ in 2012 to a ‘B’ this year. Bayshore held steady with a ‘B.’

Manatee slipped from an ‘A’ in 2012 to a ‘B’ this year. The school district said Manatee didn’t meet the bottom quartile growth requirement in math.

Diana Greene, the deputy superintendent of instructional services, said Manatee High School only missed the required 50 percent of growth in the bottom quartile in math by one point.

“This is still an amazing feat,” Greene said. “I am sure they are disappointed, but their grade was not dropped for a lack of improvement.”

The state grades its high schools based on student performance on tests, as well as graduation rates and other factors.

Half of the grade is based on FCAT components — reading, writing and math — for up to 800 points possible.

The other half is based on new high school components. This includes the performance and participation of students in rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Dual Enrollment, the postsecondary readiness of students measured by the SAT, ACT, or College Placement Test and the high school graduation rate of at-risk students.

Florida released grades for the rest of its public schools over the summer amid a controversy over the accuracy of the grading formula.

The state has put a safety net provision in place that prevents a school from dropping more than one letter grade in a year.

Greene said the safety net did not have a bearing on Manatee High drop of a letter grade.

High schools in Sarasota County also earned A and B grades, although three of the schools there showed a decline. Sarasota High School, Riverview High School and North Port High School dipped from an ‘A’ to a ‘B.’ Booker High School and Venice Senior High School maintained ‘Bs.’

Florida Virtual School received a ‘B’ in its first school grade.

Greene said the school grades are guidelines for moving forward. Over the past four years, Southeast High School improved from a ‘D’ to an ‘A.’

“A lot has to do with focus, and focusing on the areas that impact not only student achievement, but also our number one goal, which is about graduating students who are prepared for college or career. When we are focused on that goal, everything else improves.”

While each of the Manatee County School District high schools earned a grade of an ‘A; or a ‘B,’ elementary schools and middle schools are still struggling, with eight of the schools earning a failing grade.

Greene said that one factor is that elementary school grades only consider FCAT scores for a possible total of 800 points, while high school grades take into account other factors, as well.

“The elementary schools are more focused on the mastery of the standards based on grade level,” Greene said.

Each school in Manatee County has an improvement plan with short and long-term goals, especially as the requirements are potentially becoming more challenging.

“We are excited today, but we still have a lot more work to maintain those school grades,” Greene said. “It only takes one point to knock you down an entire letter grade. It can be discouraging, especially when you know you worked hard.”

Greene gave credit to all teachers in staff in the high schools.

“It gives comfort that no matter what high school in the district you attend, you have an opportunity for a great education,” Greene said.

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