SEBRING — Overall it was a good report card for The School Board of Highlands County with Thursday’s release of the school and district accountability grades from the Florida Department of Education.
The grades are based on state assessment test scores along with other factors at the high school level, such as the graduation rate.
Accountability grade highlights for Highlands in 2019 include Sun ‘n Lake Elementary School, moving up from a “C” in 2018 to earn an “A” grade, the first “A” in the county since Cracker Trail Elementary School in 2013. The grading standards have been tougher in recent years.
Lake Country Elementary and Hill-Gustat Middle schools both earned a “B” grade, with Hill-Gustat maintaining a “B” and Lake Country moving up from a “C” grade.
All the other schools in Highlands had “C” grades, which included Lake Placid Elementary School improving from a “D” to a “C.”
On the downside, both Avon Elementary School and Highlands Virtual School (the district’s online program) dropped from a “B” to a “C” grade.
A closer look at the grades and district grades is possible by checking the grading scale used by the FDOE.
The accountability grade report shows the percentage of possible points each school earned. The points come from the percentage of students who scored in Level 3 or above on assessments and the percentage of those who improved, etc.
The range for a “B” grade was 54%-61%, which means Lake Placid High School and Memorial Elementary School, both at 53%, just missed a “B” grade.
The district grades were based on the same scale with Highlands close to a “B,” but earning a “C” grade with 52%.
Hardee County was at the lowest end of the “B” scale with 54% and the Okeechobee County School District was also at the low end of the “B” with 55%.
The districts of Glades, Hendry and DeSoto counties earned “C” grades.
The school grade percentages show two areas of concern in Highlands — Lake Placid Middle School at 42% and Avon Park Middle School at 43%, which are at the low end of the “C” range of 41% to 53%.
The FDOE noted the following information on the district grades:
• 24 districts are now graded “A” in Florida, and for the second year in a row, there are no districts graded “D” or “F.”
• 54 of Florida’s 67 school districts are graded “A” or “B.”
• Five districts improved their district grade from a “B” in 2017-18 to an “A” in 2018-19.
• Three districts improved their district grade from a “C” in 2017-18 to a “B” in 2018-19.