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July 17, 2014

Hamilton school district gets preliminary F grade

Central gets F, North and South get C

Jasper — The 2013-14 preliminary school grades and cumulative district grades for elementary schools were released by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) on Friday, July 11, and Hamilton County did not fare well.

Central Hamilton Elementary (CHE) came in with 379 points and scored an F grade, joining 122 other elementary schools in the state with the same failing grade. Last year CHE scored a D and the year prior they scored a C. Three years prior to that CHE scored an F which placed the school in an intervention program by the FDOE. They emerged from intervene status in 2011 with a C grade.

North Hamilton Elementary (NHE) scored 466 points and came away with a C grade, the same as last year. The year prior they earned a B and the year before that an A grade.

South Hamilton Elementary (SHE) scored 457 points and received a C grade, the same as last year. The year before that they received a B and the prior year an A.

Preliminary district grades were also released and, not counting the high school grade that will be released toward the end of this year, Hamilton County is sitting on an another F grade, the same grade they received last year. In 2012 the district received a D grade and in 2011 a C grade.

In contrast, the preliminary district grade for Lafayette County is a B grade and Suwannee County is a C grade.

“We’ve looked at, analyzed and re-analyzed some of the data,” said Superintendent Thomas Moffses. “It doesn’t do any good now. Once the tests are taken you move forward. There are a couple indicators we had, especially at Central that did not match up. They did match up in other areas. In 4th grade writing we took a hit at Central that was probably about 40 points lower than we were projecting in all the work leading up to that. Some of the science scores took a hit, more so at Central than the other locations. Both of those are areas that we are, since we got the grades, have looked into items to address. We’re trying to make sure we don’t have that complication again moving forward.”

Denise Clayton, one of the high school science teachers has offered and been approved to transfer to CHE this coming school year to help beef up the efforts to teach science to the kids, Moffses said. 

“We’re going to try to do some collaborative things with both North and South,” said Moffses.

District School Board Board member Johnny Bullard said, “Certainly, I’m disappointed about the results, but I know that the grades in no way reflect the hard work that’s been done by a lot of dedicated staff members in this district, and by students and the encouragement of parents. My hope is that we will improve next year. We all bear responsibility for it; the board, the superintendent...everyone.”

Another school board member Gary Godwin stated, “For the past six years that I’ve been on the board, we have played musical chairs at Central, more so than any other school. We’ve not let people in there long enough for the kids. Once they start learning what one style of teacher is teaching them, we put another teacher in there because we’re trying to change things. I think Moffses has got good people in the positions that they need to be in. I think he’s going to leave them in those positions and I think you’ll see the grades turn around. I really do. I think we’re going in the right direction, even though the grades do not indicate that.”

According to the FDOE website, elementary, middle and combination schools serving elementary and middle school grade levels are assigned a school grade based primarily upon student achievement data from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test 2.0 (FCAT 2.0), Florida End-of-Course (EOC) Assessments and the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA), which is administered to cognitively disabled students for whom the FCAT 2.0 is not an appropriate assessment.

FDOE says that school grades communicate to the public how well a school is performing relative to state standards. The assessment-based components of all school grades are calculated based on student achievement in reading, math, writing and science, annual learning gains for each student, as well as the progress of the lowest quartile of students. Schools are awarded points for students who score satisfactory or higher and/or make annual learning gains.

The Florida Legislature recently amended the statutes for the upcoming 2014-15 school year to streamline the school grading process to enhance transparency, and refocus on student success measures. The new amendment will also accommodate the adoption of new assessments and achievement-level standards prior to the calculation of the preliminary 2014-15 school grades, which will be used for baseline informational purposes.

Since 1999, when Florida implemented the A-F school grading system, accountability standards have steadily been raised and expanded, and more changes are coming for the 2014-15 school year.

Concerning the F grade, Moffses said, “It’s very discouraging to see. We’ve got wonderful teachers that pour their heart out, day in and day out. You can never say that they don’t work hard, because they do. It’s just an item that we have to deal with that’s factual and we’ll move forward.”

According to Moffses, the FDOE’s Differentiated Accountability (DA) team is set to arrive in Hamilton County on July 31 to meet with the management teams at the schools and map out what is expected from both sides.

“They will also be back the first week of school to work with our teachers during the first Professional Development day,” Moffses said. “We’re going to continue to move forward and attack this.”

For more information on school grades, you can log on to http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org.

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