Schools shine, must address bottom quartile, grad rates

Guest Correspondence

Florida District and School grades have been published by the Florida Department of Education for the 2021-2022 school year. We have great news and some areas that will need improvement, but overall, our teachers should be congratulated for their work and the community should be proud of the result of the investment in our kids.

Sarasota Schools have maintained their coveted ‘A’ rating. This is an important sense of pride in our community, and it should be. A community that cares about its kids, cares about its future. We have moved up one spot in the School District rankings and are in a three-way tie for 5th with Gilchrist and Collier Counties. Ahead of us in first through fourth place are St. John’s County, Nassau County, Lafayette County and Walton County. 

According to the FLDOE website, there are up to 11 components measured in a District Grade. This column will break down those components and compare the scores to the rest of the state.

Sarasota Schools rank fourth in English Language Arts Achievement and have an “A” in that area. English Language Arts Learning Gains are a low “B.” Every district appears to be having problems in this area, no one got an “A” in the state in this category. Sarasota Schools are in a four-way tie for 4th in the state in this category. 

The English Language Arts learning gains of the lowest 25% reveal a low “C” for Sarasota County. We are 10th in the state in this area. There is a lot of work to be done for the bottom quartile of students in English.

Math Achievement scores were stronger than English in Sarasota Schools, but so were many of the counties in the top five. Math was an “A” for Sarasota Schools. We are in a three-way tie for 5th for Math Achievement. We just missed an “A” in Math Learning Gains by one point. We rank 7th in Math Learning Gains. 

Our bottom quartile in math is a problem. We rank 21st in the state for Math Learning Gains of the Lowest 25%. We have a “C” in this component.

The bottom quartile of students needs to be a focus for the School District in the upcoming year in English and Math. There should be specific goals for the Superintendent, the Board, and every school.

Science and Social Studies were both strong for the district. Both areas received “A” grades. Sarasota ranked 7th for Science Achievement and is in a very strong tie for 3rd in Social Studies Achievement. 

Sarasota Schools ranked 15th in the state in Middle School Acceleration. According to the FLDOE website, “This component is based on the percentage of eligible students who passed a high school level EOC assessment or industry certification.” 

There are some categories that are reported yearly, but lag behind a year in reporting due to timing. They are still factored into the District grade. Those are Graduation Rates and College and Career Acceleration. 

The Graduation Rate dropped a point from 92 to 91. We are in a twelve-way tie for 20th in the state with our Graduation Rate. Addressing this mediocrity should also be a specific goal for the District.

We rank 8th in the state for College and Career Acceleration. According to FLDOE, “This component is based on the percentage of graduates from the graduation cohort who earned a score on an acceleration examination (AP, IB, AICE) or a grade in a dual enrollment or clock-hour dual enrollment course that qualified students for college credit or earned an industry certification.”

More subgroup details will come with future breakdowns from FLDOE. In the meantime, the District should, in a very public way, incorporate the areas that need improvement into every measurement and goal they are able. The Argus Foundation congratulates our teachers, students, and community on maintaining an “A” District grade. 

Christine Robinson is Executive Director of The Argus Foundation.

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