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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Education

Pinellas high schools earn gold-star grades

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Tampa Bay area high schools have a cause for some celebration — especially in Pinellas County.

That’s because all 16 Pinellas County public high schools got As or Bs on a state-level assessment known as Florida School Grades for the 2012-2013 academic year. Last year, 13 scored within that range. Hillsborough and Pasco high schools saw increases in the number of schools with A grades, but Pinellas officials are hailing their results as a milestone because it’s the first year since the inception of school grades that all public high schools scored above average. There were no C schools.

“It’s a big deal that students can do more and students believe in themselves,” Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego said.

To Grego, the high marks show that Pinellas is equipping more students with real-world knowledge and skills than ever. “Every graduate is career ready or ready for postsecondary education,” he said.

Pinellas had 10 A schools this year, the same number as last year, though there has been some fluctuation. Countryside, Largo and Pinellas Park slid from A to B grades. Meanwhile, Clearwater, Dunedin and Lakewood received As after getting Bs last year.

It was the first time Lakewood High School has received an A.

Lakewood Principal Bob Vicari attributed the school’s success to a range of factors, namely “a climate change at the school, a lot of individual attention for the students, strong teaching staff and a lot of people working together” in recent years.

“It’s such a great academic climate for the kids,” he said. “We’re very, very proud of it.”

Schools that bumped up from a C to a B included Dixie M. Hollins, Gibbs and Northeast.

Schools retaining their A grades include Boca Ciega, Osceola Fundamental, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor and East Lake. Seminole High maintained a B grade, which it has held since it slid from an A in the 2010-11 academic year.

For Pinellas County’s two secondary charter schools, it was a mixed bag.

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School received an A, as it has for each of its nine years in existence, but New Point Charter School received a C, as it did last year. Such schools are not technically part of the public school district.

Neighboring districts also fared well.

More than half of Hillsborough’s public high schools, 14, received A grades. Nine were rated B, and four received a C.

In Pasco County, the number of A schools doubled this year, and its only D school improved to a C, but four B schools dropped to a C.

Across the state, a record number of high schools and combination schools earned an A in 2013. Nearly half of 240 schools made the highest grade.

The increase in schools earning the top grade came even as the grading formula became more rigorous, according to the state Department of Education. Learning gains for the lowest-performing 25 percent of students were not included in the grade calculation last year.

Unlike the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, school grades consider a broad range of factors in their assessments, including graduation rates, improvement among low-performing students, scoring in a range of subjects and FCAT scores.

This year’s school grades are under a “safety net,” which means a school cannot drop more than one letter grade. In July, the provision was extended for the 2014 and 2015 school grades.

kbradshaw@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7999

Twitter: @kbradshawTBO

Tribune writers Erin Kourkounis and Ronnie Blair contributed to this report.

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