High school grades for the 2011-12 school year have been released and New Tampa’s high schools have once again scored well.

For the second straight year, both Freedom and Wharton High both received ‘B’s from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE). Although elementary and middle school grades were released last July, high school grades are delayed so that factors such as graduation rates can be evaluated and worked into each school’s individual score. Both Freedom and Wharton’s graduation rates improved from their 2011 rates, from 74 and 71 percent, respectively, to 75 percent for both schools for 2012.

“A ‘B’ is pretty good,” says Wharton principal Bradley Woods. “But, it’s a little disappointing any time we’re not at the top of the scale.”

Woods says that Wharton will be working even harder this school year in as many categories as possible to try to improve last year’s B, especially in the area of “at-risk graduation rate,” or the graduation rate of students that are classified as “at-risk” when they enter the ninth grade, based on their eighth grade FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) scores in reading and math.

“We have to get them doing better in ninth grade,” Woods says. “We have to track their progress and make sure that they’re being successful.”

To do so, Woods says that Wharton already has implemented mentoring programs, identifying students on the state’s “at-risk” list and making sure they’re getting more support. The sessions are held during the day, so transportation is not an issue, so the at-risk students can get more help in subjects with which they may be struggling.

But, that’s not the only area that Woods thinks affected Wharton’s score. He says his graduation rate was affected by students who withdrew from Wharton and never enrolled at another school, so the “dropout” falls on the last school that student attended. Even so, Woods says he is optimistic about this school year.

“(Getting a ‘B’) is frustrating when you feel like you, your staff and students have been working so hard,” he explains. “We have to do a better job across the board. We want to be the best.”

Unfortunately, calls to Freedom principal David Sheppard were not returned by our press time. — MW

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