As public high school students celebrate the start of winter break, a number of Hillsborough County high school principals and teachers are toasting their success following the release of 2012 preliminary grades by the Florida Department of Education.
The education department released the preliminary grades Friday, Dec. 21, showing that Florida high schools receiving an A grade rose to 231 from 148 schools last year.
The improvement comes despite higher standards imposed on the state's high school students, said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart.
"This year's results reflect both higher standards and temporary safeguards the state Board of Education approved to help smooth the transition as we continue toward implementing Common Core State Standards and assessments," she said.
Hillsborough is among the counties that saw an increase in the number of A-rated schools. Thirteen of the county's 27 traditional high schools received an A, more A grades than at any time since the initiation of the school grading system.
In addition to 13 A grades, Hillsborough County high schools received 10 B grades. That means 85 percent of the high schools in the county received either an A or B grade. And no traditional high school in Hillsborough County earned a D or F grade.
“We’re proud of our high school students, teachers and administrators,” said Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. “We have very high expectations and our students have shown that they are up to the task.”
Two high schools (Robinson and Strawberry Crest high schools) earned their first A grade. Middleton High School improved from a D to a B.
The high school grades are released later than elementary and middle because factors other than test scores – such as graduation rates and accelerated courses – are figured into the grades. The elementary and middle school grades were announced in July.
For the first time, the state assigned school grades to exceptional student education centers in a new and controversial way. The state gave districts a choice to either allow ESE centers to be graded like any other school or allow the district to opt out of grading ESE centers. In the latter case, the students' performance would count toward the traditional school they would have otherwise attended.
The Hillsborough County School Board decided it made no sense to hold a traditional school accountable for a student who never attended that school. So, the district opted to have ESE centers graded.
As a result, three centers – Caminiti Exceptional Center, LaVoy Exceptional Center and Willis Peters Exceptional Center – received F grades. Elia and fellow superintendents plan to work with the state to develop a more appropriate assessment process for ESE centers and their students.
In addition to higher achievement levels this year, the state moved to a more rigorous graduation rate formula for high schools and expanded the basis for college readiness measures, focusing on all on-time graduates. Next year, high school grades will include biology and geometry end-of-course assessments.
The increase in the number of A high schools is good news for Hillsborough County for another reason. High school grades determine school recognition funds, which reward schools that have sustained high student performance or have shown substantial student performance improvement. The Legislature approved $134,582,877 for that purpose for 2012-13.
Locally, Newsome High School earned an A, just as it did in 2011.
Bloomingdale, Durant and Riverview high schools also earned A grades. All three schools received B grades last year.
Spoto High School slipped from an A last year to a B this year.