Although new "cut scores" and standards were implemented for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for elementary and middle school students this year, the Lee County School District fared better than expected in the number of A and B schools.
Still the district dropped from an overall "A," to its first "B" since 2008.
The district anticipated a drop from last year's collective A and B 90 percent to 76 percent, but earned a better-than-expected overall average of 79 percent.
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke addressing the media last week announcing the district's grade.
"We performed better than anticipated in Lee County," said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke, who held a press conference Wednesday at the Lee County Public Education Center to discuss the school-by-school grades for the 2011-2012 school year. "These scores reflect new standards and cut scores."
The district overall score had not yet been released.
The state saw an overall decline pattern with A and B school grades for elementary and middle schools, Burke said, adding 365 schools dropped from an A or B school grade as a consequence of the standards and cut scores that the Florida Department of Education changed on the FCAT statewide.
The reduction of A and B schools was a reflection of the decision the state board had made under the premise that the number of A and B schools was too high and something needed to be done, Burke said.
The decline then was a reflection of the number of students who received a level 3 or higher on their FCAT scores.
Burke said when the state board made changes in the middle of the year regarding the scores and standards, they decided to also incorporate a stop gap measure, which would save schools from dropping two letter grades.
Twenty schools in the Lee County School District were saved from dropping two letter grades this year. Burke said 388 schools statewide were saved from dropping two letter grades.
In Lee County, there were 34, or 45.3 percent, schools that received an A grade and 25, or 33.3 percent, of elementary and middle schools that received a B grade.
"It clearly indicates we are on track," Burke said, adding that they still obviously want to do better.
The district has a goal of 90 percent of the schools receiving an A or B school grade for the upcoming school year.
Thirty schools in the district kept their A grade, while Edison Park, Tanglewood Elementary and Six Mile Charter School increased their school grade from a B to an A.
Pine Island Elementary School was among the schools that received a school grade of an A. The school has received an A every year since 1999.
"Wow," Pine Island Elementary School Principal Robert Mazzoli said. "All I can say is that I am very proud of my staff, teachers, students, parents and community for all of their hard work and perseverance this school year. With all of the changes, high demands and continuous mandates coming down to us, we continue to shine not only in Lee County, but in the state of Florida."
Pine Island Elementary ranked fourth in the district out of all the elementary schools in the total points they received for their school's grade report.
In addition, the students ranked fourth among all of the elementary schools in the district for their FCAT reading scores with 73 percent and math scores of 75 percent of students earning a level three or higher. Pine Island Elementary School students ranked ninth in the district with their writing scores at 91 percent and first in the district for their science scores at 73 percent of students earning a level three or higher.
"The students of Pine Island are special, talented and focused on learning," Mazzoli said. "The teachers and staff are committed to continuous student achievement. When I looked at the grading report from the state, I was ecstatic when I saw how well our students performed. We were in the top five or six of the eight grade reporting categories for all elementary schools in our county. That is amazing. My thanks, gratitude and appreciation to everyone for their continued support for our Pine Island Community School. Like the old adage says, 'it takes a village.'"
Burke said the largest impact for the schools that dropped from an A to a B is the funding they will no longer receive for accomplishing that grade. The funding, which comes from the state, typically goes to the teachers of that A school, he said.
"Those schools will not have money available if not an A school," Burke said.
Although there are no F elementary or middle schools in the district, there are four D schools compared to one last year. Those schools include Franklin Park, Tice Elementary, Fort Myers Middle School and James Stephens International Academy.
"The leaders in those schools have a huge challenge," Burke said.
He said they are going to look intensely at the indicating factors of why the four schools received a D. Burke said there is a great need to pay attention to what needs to happen for these schools to increase their grade.
A district-wide math program will be implemented, Burke said, to help the schools in the district improve their FCAT scores, which, in turn, with affect their school grades. Math is a targeted area because it experienced the least growth.
With a 79 percent average, Lee County Public Schools ranked second among the 10 largest districts in Florida.
"It is gratifying that we did well against other districts," Burke said. Second is a good place for us to be."
Brevard came in first with 92 percent of its schools receiving an A or B school grade.
The other schools that are ranked among the top 10 include Palm Beach with 76 percent of the schools receiving an A or B grade; Orange County with 73 percent; Broward County with 69 percent; Dade County with 67 percent; Pinellas County with 62 percent; Hillsborough County with 58 percent; Duval County with 55 percent and Polk County with 52 percent.
Only 69 percent of schools statewide received an A or B school grade for the 2011-2012 school year.
"Overall I am happy," Burke said about Lee County's grades. "I think we did a little better than our own predictions."
Due to graduation rates, advanced placement and International Baccalaureate courses, among a few other contributing factors, school grades for high school will be released in the fall.