By Matt Wiley
Just weeks after final Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) 2.0 scores were released and in the shadow of big changes for the state’s comprehensive testing and school accountability system, the Florida Department of Education (FDoE) has released preliminary 2014 school grades for non-high schools, and Wesley Chapel’s schools have stolen the show.
According to the FDoE report released on July 11, five of Wesley Chapel’s nine non-high schools earned the prestigious ‘A’ grade this year, with two schools earning a ‘B’ and two other schools earning ‘C’ grades. No Wesley Chapel school received a ‘D’ or failing ‘F’ score.
Congratulations to Dr. John Long Middle School, as well as Veterans, Sand Pine, Wesley Chapel and Seven Oaks elementary schools, for each earning an ‘A’ every year since 2011. In addition, Thomas E. Weightman Middle School and Double Branch Elementary each earned a ‘B,’ while Watergrass and New River elementary schools each earned a ‘C.’
A press release from the Pasco County School District (PCSD, which received a ‘C’ grade overall) states that of the 15 middle schools in the Pasco District, only three earned an ‘A,’ while only six elementary schools received the same top honor, four of which are right here in Wesley Chapel.
“It feels good to be recognized by the state for our staff’s hard work and continued commitment to our students and families,” says Sand Pine Elementary principal Scott Atkins.
“These are very challenging times,” says PCSD superintendent Kurt Browning. “Providing stability and clarity to the school accountability system during the transition to new (state education) standards is almost impossible as we attempt to prepare for the future and continue to test the past.”
The new standards that Browning refers to are the new “Florida Standards,” which will be implemented this coming (2014-15) school year and are to be much more rigorous in English language arts, writing and mathematics to keep up with the new, nationally-recognized “Common Core” educational standards.
“As the Florida Standards are fully implemented and a new test is introduced, issues related to school grades will continue for the next two years,” Browning continued. “It is absolutely critical to educate our stakeholders and keep our communities, parents and students informed about the progress we are making.”
Atkins says that Sand Pine has been working to get a head start on preparing for next year’s assessments.
“Our teachers have planned collaboratively to create rigorous units of instruction tied to the Common Core Standards,” Atkins explains. “They also bridged the gaps between the (current) ‘Next Generation Sunshine State Standards’ and (next year’s) ‘Common Core Standards’ to ensure that students master both of these sets of standards. Our school had the highest fourth grade math scores in the Pasco District (with 86 percent of students passing). I attribute these results to our dedicated fourth grade team, who created math tutorial videos for our students.”
School Grades Rubric
Based partly upon the FCAT, school grades are measured using an 800-point scale for elementaries and a 900-point scale for middle schools. The grades also take into account End-of-Course (EoC) test scores, which are given in middle and high schools in a variety of subjects, and the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA), an alternative test for students who are unable to complete the FCAT test due to cognitive or learning disabilities.
Points are given for students who score “satisfactory” or higher and/or make learning gains. A point is awarded for each percent of the school’s students who score satisfactory or better in each subject area of each test.
For example, students who score a level 3 or higher on the math, reading and science FCAT 2.0 tests, and/or a level 4 on EoC tests, and a 3.5 or higher on FCAT writing, the percentage of students that achieve that level in each subject is the point value that the school is given. To earn an “A,” at least 95 percent of the school’s students must have been tested and at least 595 points must have been earned.
To determine learning gains, test scores for students in each subject on FCAT, EoC and FAA tests are examined by comparing those scores with those from the previous year. If students perform at the same level or improve on their achievement level, the school also earns points for that percentage of students.
For more information about this year’s school grades, please visit FLDOE.org and click on the “School Grades” tab.