By VICTORIA VILLANUEVA-MARQUEZ and BRIANNA KWASNIK
Local school districts were celebrating Thursday after state grades showed improvements nearly across the board.
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 maintained an A grade for the 16th consecutive year, according to results released by the Florida Department of Education.
This year, Sarasota 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.
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.
“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 if we have to recognize that they serve different communities.”
Charlotte County Schools received a grade of B for the 2018-19 school year, the grade they have maintained since 2015.
“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,” Charlotte County Schools District spokesman Mike Riley said.
He added that seven out of the 20 schools in the county received an A, two more than last year.
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 that the district’s graduation rate is not only better than state average but is also the “highest our district has ever achieved.”