Orlando Sentinel | By Leslie Postal | July 7, 2022
Florida’s first full school report card since the COVID-19 pandemic showed fewer schools earned A’s and B’s than in 2019, according to results released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education.
In Central Florida, Seminole County Public Schools remained the top performer, earning a district grade of A. Orange County Public Schools earned a B as did the Lake and Osceola county school systems.
The state canceled student testing — the backbone of the grades — in 2020 when the pandemic shuttered schools, so no grades were issued that year, and it made grades optional last year because many students were still studying remotely.
This year represented the return to Florida’s decades-old system of grading public schools, and school districts, based mostly on the performance of their students on state standardized tests. Schools that earned an A or improved a grade are eligible for extra money, which is often used for staff bonuses.
State leaders said the results “exceeded expectations,” noting that every F-rated school in 2019 earned a better grade this year and that fewer schools than expected landed on Florida’s “school improvement” list.
“From Spring 2021 to Spring 2022, it’s clear that our teachers and school leaders used every resource at their disposal to lift Florida’s students well beyond expectations,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz in a statement. “We know that these results are thanks to policies that kept schools open and kept kids in the classroom, which has been widely recognized as critical to student achievement. Today we can celebrate these incredible results, while continuing to support the schools that are struggling.”
But compared to 2019, a somewhat smaller percentage of schools earned A’s or B’s this year, about 59% down from 62% three years ago, state data showed. This year, 41% of the schools earned C’s and D’s up from 37% in 2019.
There were 30 F-rated schools this year out of 3,412 public schools eligible for a grade. In 2019, there were 14 out of 3,328.
Students scores on the standardized math, reading, science and social studies tests that factor into the grades declined from 2019, before the pandemic, so somewhat lower grades were to be expected.
But the education department, in its release said it initially predicted about 800 schools would be on its “school improvement” list, meaning they would receive state oversight and help. Instead, just 168 schools landed there.
Lake Superintendent Diane Kornegay said the grades showed teachers performed well during a challenging school year marked by periods of high student absenteeism because of surges in COVID-19 cases.
“We had to overcome some challenges, particularly regarding student attendance, and we did so significantly,” Kornegay said in a statement. “Our teachers, administrators and staff were attentive to the needs of our students, and our grade reflects that.”
OCPS, the region’s largest with more than 200 schools, was the only local district that had schools graded F this year. Three campuses, Catalina, Pineloch, and Washington Shores elementary schools, earned failing grades.
But Orange educators said its 59 A-rated schools this year represented a jump from last year, when if it had opted for grades there would have been 39.
The district also noted it just was just shy of a district grade of A, earning 60.7 points when 62 were needed for the top grade.
“This data provides a limited view of what our students, teachers, administrators, support staff and families accomplished this year,” said Orange Superintendent Barbara Jenkins in a statement. “We are proud of their hard work in the midst of a global pandemic and will use this data to continue leading our students to success.”
Statewide, 223 schools received “incompletes” instead of a grade, including three Seminole high schools.
Michael Lawrence, a district spokesman, said staff was working with the state to determine why and to get an A-to-F grade issued.