Apopka’s 13 public schools as a whole took a small drop in Florida’s annual A-F school report card released last week. Seven of the 13 public schools in the Apopka area dropped a letter grade; four schools retained their 2014-15 status, while only one school (Lakeville Elementary) improved from the previous year. The combined grade-point-average of the 13 schools dropped from 2.76 to 2.25.
Christine Moore was not pleased with the grades, but did point to the new grading system as a reason, and looked optimistically at the future. Moore is the Orange County Public School Board District 7 school board member, which includes all of Apopka.
“While I support a viable accountability system and this is a baseline year, the grades in the Apopka portion of my district, were disappointing. In the past higher poverty schools received a bump from moving ahead their lowest learners. The state tinkered with the grading formula and learning gains generally brought grades down. Folks should understand using the old standards and requirements, every school in Apopka probably would have earned an “A”. The state is forcing higher achievement through more rigorous standards and grading. All over the country and neighboring Seminole County, school grades have dropped. It’s a tough year when Lake Brantley, Lake Mary and Dr. Phillips earn “B” grades. Nevertheless, I have confidence our administration; teachers and students will rise to meet the challenge. Special recognition to Wolf Lake and Clay Springs elementary schools, which both earned “B” ratings.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick is running against Moore for the District 7 seat. He is skeptical of the grading system, particularly in the annual changes to the testing methods.
“I’m not a big fan of Florida’s school grading system. It seems like the Florida Department of Education and the Legislature continue to experiment with the standards that schools use, the assessments schools take, and how they will ultimately define success each year. Schools can have the same administrators, the same teachers, and the same programs, and yet their grade can go up and down from year to year like a yo-yo. School grades have not changed a whole lot since Florida set off on this wild goose chase of educational perfection. The only time the grades change much is usually due to the State changing how they are going to figure the grades for a particular year…which usually causes the grades to go down. Once the schools get acclimated to the new system, the State changes things up again. As a life long educator and a former Assistant Principal at Apopka HS and Boone HS, and a former Dean at Ocoee HS and Apopka Memorial MS, I can tell you that schools are getting tired of the moving target that the school grading system has become.”
Isadora Dean also seeks the District 7 seat. She points to income brackets and a lack of funding as reasons schools perform poorly.
“When changes are made in accountability, scores tend to decline. However, I am proud that teachers received a “B” rating. Three schools in District 7 are labeled among the lowest 300 performing elementary schools (economically disadvantaged), in Florida. They are Lockhart, Lovell and Phillis Wheatley. OCPS should put additional resources in these schools; including, mentoring, tutoring, parent involvement initiatives and after-school programs focusing on academics. Research shows that family income, has a major impact on student performance, therefore we must look at ways to break the cycle of poverty in our community by going back to the basics of teaching literacy, technical careers, and life management skills, and by job training.”
Florida’s A-F school grading system was the first in the nation; implemented by then Governor Jeb Bush in 1999. It provides extra money incentives to schools with high or improved grades and penalizes poor performing schools with more state oversight.
OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins believes Florida’s A-to-F grading system needs to be replaced with something that provides a more complete look at school performance.
“The time is just prime for looking at a different kind of accountability system,” Jenkins said. “I think the usefulness of single letter grades has probably come to a conclusion at this point.”
Here are the grades for the 13 Apopka area public schools:
High Schools: Apopka – incomplete, Wekiva – C
Middle Schools: Apopka – C, Piedmont Lakes – C, Wolf Lake – B
Elementary Schools: Apopka – C, Clay Springs – B, Dream Lake – C, Lakeville – C, Phillis Wheatley – D, Rock Springs – C, Wolf Lake – B, Zellwood – D.