By VICTORIA VILLANUEVA-MARQUEZ & BRIANNA KWASNIK
Regional school districts were celebrating their grades Thursday after state results showed improvements nearly across the board.
From Charlotte to DeSoto to Sarasota counties, the districts received word of bettering or continued high grades, leading to praise of “valiant” efforts by students, teachers and staff.
The grades are based on 11 factors that include student achievement, learning gains statewide, high school graduation rates and standardized tests, among others.
The Sarasota County School District has maintained an A grade for the 16th consecutive year, according to results released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education.
This year, Sarasota is ranked third in the state behind St. John and Gilchrist counties, and is one of 24 districts to earn an A grade.
“There’s an expectation in this community that we have A rated schools, and so we have met that goal today,” Superintendent Todd Bowden said at a news conference Thursday at a Sarasota city elementary school that went from a C to an A. “We have continued that tradition of excellence, and we’re so excited about it.”
The district’s overall scores increased by 8 percentage points, compared to last year, according to state data. Of the district’s 49 schools, 34 received an A, 10 received a B, four received a C and one received a D.
In North Port, schools improved their grades, including Glenallen Elementary and Toledo Blade Elementary, which both climbed from a C to an A.
Bowden noted that both elementary schools have a Title I designation, which allows them to receive additional funding to improve the academic performance of low-income students.
Bowden said the district started a reading recovery program for first-graders two years ago. Those who participated in the program have since made significant reading gains, which contributed to the schools improved grade, he said.
“It is somewhat unfair in the field of education to simply compare two schools and assume that their environment is the same,” Bowden said. “We can put the same resources behind one school, and put the same resources behind a different school, but we have to recognize that they serve different communities.”
Charlotte County Schools received a grade of B for the 2018-19 school year a grade they have maintained since 2015.
The district received 60 percent of total possible points from the Florida Department of Education.
“Our students, teachers, staff and district leadership team put forth valiant effort. We are rated as a B District for the fifth consecutive year,” Charlotte County Schools District spokesman Mike Riley said.
He added that seven out of the 20 schools in the county received an A, which is two more than last year.
“On earning percent of total possible points, we moved up from a 59 to a 60; 61.5 is an A, so we are very close to being an A District,” Riley said.
It’s a thought that Charlotte County Schools Superintendent Steve Dionisio agreed with.
“I am pleased that we continue to get closer to an A,” Dionisio said. “I am hopeful that with the additional resources we can provide due to the referendum will can accelerate our growth and reach that A.”
Dionisio thanked teachers and support staff along with the leadership teams of the district. “Also to the students and families great job and with your continued effort we will reach our goal,” he said.
Charlotte’s assistant superintendent for learning was thrilled with the results.
“Our district’s grade of 60% B hits an all-time high for the last eight years proving once again that our momentum toward high achievement and success for all students continues,” Cheryl LaPorta Edwards said. “Increased percentages in achievement in both middle school and college and career acceleration clearly establishes our district’s commitment to graduate students that are both ‘college and career’ ready.”
She noted the district bested state achievement averages in the four core content areas and its graduation rate is not only better than state average — but is also the “highest our district has ever achieved.”
She praised teachers and students “for a job well-done.”
“We are reaching the goals we have set,” LaPorta Edwards said.
DeSoto County Schools received a grade of ‘C’ for the 2018-19 school year, a grade they have maintained since 2015.
“The hard work and dedication of all employees, parents, and students are essential to meeting our goal of higher student achievement. The elementary schools showed significant increases, which will impact our secondary schools. The Mission Statement for The School District of DeSoto County is to prepare all students to be successful citizens and productive workers. We are proud of these increases and will continue to work towards our goal.”
The district received 49 percent of total possible points, earning 538 points.