The new school year is especially important for two elementary schools in Manatee County.
Blanche H. Daughtery Elementary is entering its second year of a district-managed improvement plan. And G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary is entering its third year after former Superintendent Diana Greene appealed to the state and secured a one-year extension.
The schools, which both received a D grade for the last three years, must earn at least a C grade this year. Otherwise, they will either be closed, converted to a charter school or placed under the control of an external operator, according to an email from Cheryl Etters, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
A spokesman for the School District of Manatee County would not comment on the schools’ turnaround plans, citing the district’s efforts to begin a new school year on Monday.
“As a team, we are united in maintaining that focus,” spokesman Mike Barber wrote in an email.
“The district will be happy to discuss the turnaround status of the schools you are looking into once the new school year is up and running and our more than 48,000 students and 7,000 employees are back in the routine of teaching and learning,” he continued.
When a school is closed under the turnaround process, its students are then sent to district schools with a grade of C or higher. The district is required to monitor those students and report their progress to the state for three years, according to the DOE website.
Teachers who are rated “unsatisfactory” or “needs improvement” should not be relocated from a closed school to another turnaround school.
Such schools can also close and reopen as either one charter school or multiple charters.
“The district shall select a charter organization that has a record of school improvement in turning around schools that are high-poverty and low-performing with students of similar demographics,” the DOE website states.
Daughtery and Rogers Garden-Bullock are both Title I schools, with every student qualifying for free and reduced lunches last year, and more than 90 percent of students being classified as minorities.
Districts can also contract with an outside agency to operate schools that move deeper in the turnaround process.
With either a charter conversion or external operator, teachers rated “unsatisfactory” or “needs improvement” would no longer be employed at the school.
State law requires Manatee to create and submit a turnaround plan. However, the district would not comment on its plan, and the state had not fulfilled a records request as of late Friday.
G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary
In 2016, Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School closed after nearly 60 years, and 370 of its students transferred to Rogers-Garden Bullock, which was known as Rogers Garden Elementary before the 2016-2017 school year.
Though the school opened under a new name, it adopted the state’s file for Orange Ridge-Bullock, which included the school’s poor grades. During the last school year, former Superintendent Greene asked the state for a one-year extension on the school’s district-managed turnaround plan.
She said the school received a grant that would allow it to work with an outside agency, one that would help with school improvement.
Teachers and paraprofessionals received three days of training on lesson planing and “increasing rigor,” and it seemed the school would improve with added help from the state, she wrote. The state’s accountability network is divided into several regions throughout the state, and regional field teams works with teams in the school district.
“There is no doubt in my mind RGB is on the right path to improving its school grade to at least a ‘C’ by the end of this school year,” she wrote.
It seems the plan fell short, because Rogers-Garden-Bullock received a D grade in 2018.
Greene made a similar statement to the State Board of Education as the 2015-2016 school year came to a close. As she addressed the district’s turnaround plan for what was then Rogers Garden Elementary, she said it would be the last time she made such a presentation.
“This is the last year we’re going to have D and F schools,” she said. “This is the last year.”
Her presentation was met with skepticism from Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, but the board then approved Manatee’s plan after it was questioned and tweaked. The school continued to receive D grades.
Though the turnaround plan was not immediately available, the Bradenton Herald reviewed school improvement plans for each school. Such plans are submitted by all schools that receive a D or F grade, and they are similar to a turnaround plan.
District schools track early-warning signs among students. According to its improvement plan for 2017-18, Rogers Garden-Bullock had:
- 52 students who missed at least 90 percent of school.
- 91 students who were suspended at least once.
- 21 students who failed a course in English language arts or math.
- 81 students who scored a Level 1 on statewide assessments.
- 37 students who fell under two or more categories.
The school hoped to improve achievement among English language learners and children who receive exceptional student education services. It also aimed to decrease absences, and to better support administrators and teachers.
Parents and students were oblivious to the impact of school absences, according to the district’s improvement plan, which outlined steps to communicate with families and track attendance progress.
“Teacher-parent communication is difficult due to language barriers,” the plan states.
Another barrier, according to the plan, is that teachers needed a clearer purpose and a more consistent methods.
The district said it would overcome that barrier by holding weekly meetings between teachers, administrators and instructional coaches, and by analyzing data to reveal strengths and weaknesses.
Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary
Daughtrey had 127 students with at least one suspension, 267 students who failed their statewide assessments and 24 third graders who were held back, according to its 2017-2018 improvement plan.
The school planned to improve its shortfalls by focusing on teachers’ planning sessions. They would receive help from the school’s instructional leadership team, and those experts would then report back to the district.
Both teachers and the leadership team would receive feedback, according to the plan.
Daughtrey’s staff also planned to add more resources, including extra paraprofessionals, to help certain students through small-group instruction.
And more than 50 percent of students at Daughtrey were English language learners, so the school planned to provide reading assessments in the students’ native language.
“In order to meet the needs of our bottom quartile students in both reading and math, the entire school must focus all its resources to support this common cause,” the plan states.
Surveys, newsletters and monthly meetings were used to foster a better relationship with parents, the plan said, adding that “parent communication is key to prelude parent involvement.”
Daughtrey’s plan is similar to the strategies outlined by Rogers Garden-Bullock: both put emphasis on analyzing data, improving communication and working together.
“What you believe in and what you expect is what you get,” said one plan, quoting a professor at Harvard University.