July 9, 2008

75% of Broward Schools Earn A’s or B’s on Progress Report

By Kathy Bushouse and Akilah Johnson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jul. 9--Coral Glades High School was largely empty Tuesday, with students and teachers off until August, but that didn't stop the gathered few summer staff from celebrating the school's first A in the state's student progress report.

"It's me, my office manager, the data processor and the custodians," said Coral Glades Principal David Jones, whose school received a C last year. "But I can make a lot of noise."

Jones' victory dance was one repeated in several Broward County schools on Tuesday. The Coral Springs high school is one of 14 Broward public schools to jump two letter grades for the 2007-08 school year, according to school grades released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education.

Across Broward, the news was mostly good: Nearly 75 percent of the county's public schools earned A or B grades, the district received an A, and fewer schools received D's or F's than last year.

Florida grades schools based on several factors, including student progress, learning gains and Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. The test is given to third- through 11th-graders and measures student achievement in reading, math, writing and science.

To have so many Broward schools perform well "tells you something about our people, and our board, having a single focus on teaching and learning," said Broward schools Superintendent James Notter, who said he was "ecstatic" about Tuesday's results.

"The people of Broward County should be downtown in a ticker tape parade honoring 17,000 great teachers and the rest of our work force that is truly dedicated to our kids," he said. "No one can take this away from Broward County."

But there were some blemishes on Broward's report card. Six schools received failing marks, including three that received their second failing grade in four years. Also, 187 schools failed to meet progress benchmarks required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, including 26 schools that receive federal money and now face sanctions for not hitting those prescribed targets.

Broward's results are similar to those for the entire state. Roughly three-quarters of Florida's 2,889 public schools received A's or B's this year. The number of A schools in Florida also increased, while the number of F schools dropped.

The six Broward schools that received F's are Smart School Institute of Technology and Commerce Charter High, Imagine Charter School North Lauderdale, Downtown Academy of Technology & Arts, Susie Daniels Charter School, Sunland Park Elementary and Coconut Creek High. Three of these -- Smart School, Downtown Academy and Sunland Park -- are repeating F schools.

Smart School's failing grade will mean the school's demise. Notter said Tuesday the district is working with the Lauderdale Lakes charter high school. If the school does not shut down voluntarily, the district will move to close it, Notter said.The district will work with Broward's other two repeat failing schools on state-required overhauls, but those schools will not close, Notter said.

James Eubanks, spokesman for the Smart School charter high school, said the F was "very disappointing," but he said the school would have received a passing grade under new guidelines being implemented next year.

The sting of a failing mark can be especially painful, since people often see just the grade and don't dig deeper to see what factors might have contributed to it, said Leo Nesmith, principal at Lauderhill Middle School. His school was one of the Broward schools that received an F last year and improved to a C this year.

"In my heart, even though the school had the F designation, we were not an F school," said Nesmith, in his second year at Lauderhill Middle. Students and staff dug in, worked hard and brought up the school's grade this year, Nesmith said.

At Margate Middle School, teachers and staff pored over students' test data and made it their goal not only to target those students who needed the most help but also maintain achievement levels of high performers, said Margate Middle principal Hudson Thomas.

The results: An A for Margate Middle, after a C grade in 2007.

"It takes a lot of planning. You have to use the data and kind of really find out where the kids are," Thomas said. "It's almost like diagnosis, when you go to the doctor and find out what's wrong with you."

Now, Thomas said, the work begins to keep that A next year.

Database Editor John Maines contributed to this report.

Kathy Bushouse can be reached at or 954-356-4556.


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