WHITE SPRINGS - Hamilton County School Superintendent Charles Blalock announced on Tuesday, June 24 that he would appeal the school grade given to South Hamilton Elementary School, White Springs, on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The school most recently received a grade of "C" from the Florida Department of Education based upon performance on the (FCAT) scores. South Hamilton's score increased from an "F" grade in school year 2001-2002 to a grade of "C" for the 2002-2003 school year.

While the school score has dramatically increased, Superintendent Blalock contends that, in his opinion, South has been "shortchanged" by the Department of Education because of its small student enrollment (there were 141 students enrolled at the school in school year 2002-2003.)

The Department of Education did not utilize the scores received on the FCAT Writing Assessment to calculate the school's 2002-2003 school grade. Instead, the Department of Education utilized the reading score received by the school because of the number of students tested.

According to School District officials, South Hamilton was awarded "47" points for writing when, in reality, one hundred percent of the fourth grade students tested received a 3.5 or above, which would have resulted in a writing score of 100 points.

The difference of 53 points in the writing score awarded would have raised the school's final point from 329 points to 382 points - which would have given the school a final grade of "B" for the 2002-2003 school year.

In a letter to Dr. Cornelia S. Orr, Office of Evaluating and Reporting at the Florida Department of Education, dated June 24, Superintendent Blalock expressed the following:

"I feel that the purpose of the school accountability system is to measure and report the quality of education being provided to the students of a school. The present system of replacing a writing score with a reading score does not indicate the level at which students at South Hamilton Elementary performed on the writing test. The school should be recognized for the outstanding gains made this school year and are deserving of the school grade of "B" as a TRUE indicator of the students' achievement. It is my request that the situation be reviewed and that South Hamilton be awarded a grade of "B" for the 2002-2003 school year."

According to Blalock, "the uniqueness of South Hamilton Elementary (being a small school in a rural area) should not negatively affect the deserved school grade."

The Hamilton County School District is awaiting a response from the Office of Evaluation and Reporting for the Florida Department of Education.

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