BRADENTON -- Two dozen Manatee County schools increased at least one letter grade in 2014, according to data released Friday by the Florida Department of Education.
Fifteen Manatee schools received As, compared with only nine schools in 2013. Eleven schools received D- or F-letter grades compared with 17 schools in 2013. School grades released Friday do not include high school grades.
"I'm very proud of our students, parents, teachers and administrators for all of the great work they've done over the past year," Superintendent Rick Mills said in a statement.
Overall, however, the state gave the district a C, the same grade it has received since 2012. Nearby Sarasota was graded as an A district, a grade the district has received since 2004.
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Statewide, 962 elementary and middle schools earned the top grade for 2014, a 17 percent increase over last year. The number of schools earning an F also increased this year to 178 failing schools, according to the state. In 2013, there were 106 failing schools and 767 A schools statewide.
Seven Manatee schools jumped two letter grades year to year, and nine schools dropped letter grades in 2014. Only one school, King Middle School, received an incomplete. The state had questions about irregular eraser marks on FCAT tests from King; once the district completes interviews and more paperwork, a grade will be given by the state.
The district's A schools this year are: Anna Maria Elementary, Stewart Elementa
ry, Braden River Elementary, Braden River Middle, Tara Elementary, Johnson Middle School, Witt Elementary, Haile Middle, Nolan Middle, McNeal Elementary, Freedom Elementary, Willis Elementary, Williams Elementary, Gullett Elementary and Palmetto Charter School.
Nine Manatee schools rank within the bottom 300 performing schools in the state. The bottom 300 schools ranking are based on reading grades only.
Those nine schools are Manatee Elementary School, Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary, Palmetto Elementary, Prine Elementary, Daughtrey Elementary, Samoset Elementary, Blackburn Elementary, Rogers Garden Elementary and Just For Girls Academy.
Three of the bottom 300 schools were given C grades, which is not considered failing, but poor reading scores require that the district extend the school day for an additional hour to focus solely on reading.
The district had originally budgeted $3.2 million for the program in the draft of the 2014-15 budget, according to a recent presentation given to the board.
Last year, five schools were in the bottom 100, so district officials had planned for 15 schools to be in the bottom 300. With today's news, the district overestimated the money necessary, said Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instruction.
"That'll be a savings to the district," Greene said.
Eleven district schools, including two charters, received D or F grades from the state for 2014.
They include: Manatee Elementary, Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary, Palm View Elementary, Samoset Elementary, Frances Wakeland Elementary, Imagine Charter School at North Manatee, Blackburn Elementary, Sugg Middle, Harllee Middle Schools, Rogers Garden Elementary and Just For Girls Academy.
The failing schools will receive special focus from the district's local school improvement teams, Greene said.
Four of those schools did improve from F grades to D grades in one year, Greene said. But three schools also fell from D to F. Wakeland Elementary fell from a C school to a D school, and Harllee Middle remained an F school for the second consecutive year.
In 2013, 17 Manatee schools were designated D or F schools, 12 were C schools and 20 were A and B schools, according to the initial state release of the grades. At the time of the initial release in 2013, four schools had incomplete grades. This is the final year school grades will be calculated using the current formula, according to the state. The system for next year will support the more rigorous Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment which are replacing the FCAT.
The new school grading formula will be more simple and transparent, according to the state.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.