Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

Hernando's high school grades drop in 2012-2013


High schools across the Tampa Bay area and the state celebrated the news of higher school grades this week but the same sentiment wasn't shared in Hernando County.

Data released Wednesday showed all five of Hernando County high schools' grades dropped in the 2012-2013 school year.

Springstead High School, Weeki Wachee High School and Nature Coast Technical High School dropped from an A to a B in the past year. Both Hernando and Central High Schools dropped from a B to a C.

Linda Peirce, manager of assessment and accountability at Hernando County Schools, called the news "disappointing," but said both Springstead and Nature Coast Technical High School had enough points for an A grade, but were brought down by "other indicators" in the complex grading formula.

High schools are graded on a 1,600 point scale, Peirce said, with half of the points coming from FCAT scores, and the remaining points coming from factors such as graduation rates, dual-enrollment, advanced placement and industry-based programs.

"So the only reason Springstead was not at an A is because the at-risk graduation rate did not improve by 5 percent," Peirce said. "And that's true for Nature Coast."

Hernando and Central high school grades were "expected," Peirce said, because the schools ranked as a D on FCAT points, but improved their ranking on the other factors.

Peirce said Weeki Wachee High School was one of seven schools across the state that benefitted from the "safety net" that does not allow a school to drop more than a letter grade. This is the first year Weeki Wachee is being graded as a "true high school," Peirce said, adding that last year the high school earned an A grade based on FCAT scores alone.

"Weeki Wachee is the only one that it (the safety net) applied to, everybody else got what they earned," Peirce said.

Superintendent Lori Romano was not available for comment Thursday. In a press release sent Wednesday, Romano said she viewed the school grades as "opportunity for improvement."

"We must do better, our children are counting on us," Romano said, adding "we want to earn the right to call ourselves an 'A' district."

According to Hernando County Schools, high schools improved in both reading and math this year.

Peirce said the next step is individual school meetings with principals, assessment and leadership teams to review the scores and discuss ways to improve.

Data released in July showed half of area elementary and middle schools were also down in grades, with the district maintaining a C average. Romano said at the time administrators across the state were anticipating the lower grades due to increased common core expectations.

Statewide, 49 percent of schools received an A grade, and 33 percent of schools received B grades. Only one "traditional" school in the state received an F grade.

Pasco and Hillsborough counties saw more A schools this year than last, and Pinellas County maintained the same number of high schools with A grades.

More information on school grades is available here.

Information from TBO was used in this report.

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