Lee County elementary and middle schools, including Pine Island Elementary, continue to be among the cream of the crop in the state of Florida, according to grades released by the state's governing body.
The Florida Department of Education released the school grades for the 2012-13 school year on Friday, and despite higher expectations, Lee schools were more than capable of keeping up.
Among Lee's 79 district elementary and middle schools, 29 of them, or 37 percent, earned a rating of "A" in the state accountability system, with a huge chunk of those schools in Cape Coral.
This compared to just 29 percent statewide.
Compared to the largest districts in Florida, Lee County ranked third in percent of schools earning a letter grade of "A" or "B," with 56 percent.
Dr. Nancy Graham, Lee County Superintendent of Schools, was thrilled at the results.
"The bar was raised this year in as far as performance. Five schools improved a letter grade and 41 remained the same while everything got more challenging," Graham said. "I'm pleased. We have work to do with schools that dropped grades, but I'm pleased with the progress."
School grades declined statewide this year because of the many changes that were made to the calculation. The primary impact was felt from the increase of the passing score for FCAT writing (which increased from a score of 3.0 in 2011-12 to a 3.5 last year).
Core curriculum was another reason for the drop.
"This was a tough year. We had a lot of changes, cut scores were raised and we had no extra time to provide training to address those variables," Graham said. "The accountability direction is in transition."
Despite the changes in the school grade calculation, five Lee County schools improved their grades. Bayshore Elementary, Fort Myers Beach Elementary, Gateway Elementary, Tice Elementary, and Bonita Springs Middle School all increased by at least one letter grade.
Three school in the county received a failing grade.
The results in Cape Coral and the West Zone were also good. Cape Elementary, Diplomat, Gulf, Oasis Charter, Pine Island, Trafalgar and Tropic Isles elementary schools all earned A grades.
Challenger, Gulf, Diplomat and Trafalgar middles schools also earned A grades.
Caloosa Middle, Skyline Middle and Cape Coral Charter were the only two schools in the city that dropped a grade, from a B to a C.
Moving forward, Graham said she will look at improving these grades in the year ahead by concentrating on areas that need work.
"We need to focus on instruction, what is the purpose of our being, and continue to focus on our core leaders are capable of helping teachers and providing the resources for them to work with our students," graham said. "It's a group effort and we'll make sure things are in place for people to do well."
High school grades will be finalized when additional data is collected by the state this fall.
To see how your school did, check online at: schoolgrades.fldoe.org and click under Preliminary School Grades for 2013.