BRADENTON -- An area school poised to offer unique educational programs featuring biomedical and University of Cambridge studies received a slap from the state Monday due to new legislation.
Palmetto High was the only school in Manatee County to be listed among 159 others statewide where students are eligible for the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Normally, that list is composed of low performing schools that have received back-to-back D’s or F’s.
Children enrolled at the low-performing schools are eligible for the scholarship to attend a higher-performing school. But questions have surrounded the list.
Palmetto High School received a C last year. And the 2011 grades for high schools will not be announced until the fall raising doubts that the Manatee school should be on the list. But the state’s Department of Education officials say the list is legitimate.
This is the first year a new law opened up the program to schools that slipped in their scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT, officials with Florida’s Department of Education say.
Palmetto’s FCAT points were announced along with elementary and middle school grades at the end of June. Palmetto High scored 435 points last year. This year, according to School Superintendent Tim McGonegal, the school scored 400 points.
“We don’t think this is the intent of the rule change,” McGonegal said after the list was published.
Manatee County’s Executive Director of Academics Lynn Gillman said school officials have asked for clarity from the state.
“When we got that letter we were very surprised,” Gillman said about Palmetto High School being on the list.
School officials were told by the Department of Education that “schools that didn’t reach a certain point value,” were added to the list, Gillman said.
Palmetto High School wasn’t alone. Forty other high schools were on the list. Brevard County’s Cocoa High School received a grade of an A and was added to the list.
McGonegal and other school officials say they are investigating why Palmetto High made the list. At the same time, district officials are baffled as to why one area school didn’t make the list -- Rogers Garden Elementary School. The school received an F for 2010 and 2011.
Daughtrey Elementary School and Manatee School of Arts and Sciences received D’s for 2011. However, both the schools received C’s in 2010.
The new list places a dark cloud over Palmetto High, which planned to start a biomedical sciences program in the fall. School officials also planned for Palmetto High School to launch a University of Cambridge program known as AICE or Advanced International Certificate of Education.
McGonegal says those programs will get underway as planned.
“This is just one blemish they have to deal with,” he said.