After a two-year slip in overall grade, Beach Elementary School has returned to a grade "A" status among state schools.
According to a report by the Florida Department of Education late last week, Beach Elementary received an A grade by compiling 569 points out of an 800-point scale for the preliminary 2013 grade. That is a two-letter jump for the Beach school, which recorded a C grade in 2012.
Prior to a B grade in 2011, Beach Elementary collected an A for six consecutive years from 2005 to 2010. Its overall score was B in 2003 and 2004, A in 2001 and 2002 and B in 1999 and 2000.
While the announcement is music to the ears, letter grades are not the focus, says Beach Elementary Principal Larry Wood. Beach Elementary had 78 percent learning gains in both Reading and Math.
"The good news is they aren't necessarily passing the test, but they are all making a year or more learning gains," he said. "That is what we are focusing on -learning gains for each child. We are taking each child and helping them maximize their learning gain for each year."
Grade criteria is based on the number of kids that passed the FCATs in third, fourth and fifth grade, the number of kids that made learning gains in Reading and Math from one year to the next and also the percentage of the lowest 25 percent of the kids from the prior year that made learning gains in Reading and Math.
Beach Elementary School
Overall school grading system
Florida Department of Education
2010 - A
2011 - B
School enrollment has an indirect relationship as far as percentage points. Last year, 24 students graduated from the fifth grade.
"The score of each of children is magnified because we have fewer children," Wood said. "Each one of the eight categories is worth 100 points."
The Beach school principal noted criteria changes from the state level on a yearly basis.
"They keep moving the standards up and try to make it more rigorous," he said. "Looking at the scores throughout the districts and this district itself, it proves the standards are more difficult. In spite of that, our scores went up from a C to an A."
Beach Elementary will begin its school year on Thursday, Aug. 8. Teachers will officially have their first day of school one week prior on Thursday, Aug 1, and an annual open house event is scheduled for Saturday Aug. 3, from 9 to 10:30 p.m.
It'll be another year of increased standards and another challenge for Beach Elementary officials.
"This year we did a great job of identifying individual needs of the kids and addressing them," said Wood. "We were always an "A" school. It's just sometimes doesn't work out with the test scores. In my opinion, it's about learning gains not A, B, C or D."
Pride goes along way from within and through the eyes of the community.
"We are very, very proud of our students and our staff and our community," said Wood. "The community stands behind us no matter what our grade is. That means a lot to us and is a testament to the people on the Beach."
Beach school to host open house
Beach Elementary School will have its annual Open House on Saturday Aug. 3, from 9 to 10:30 p.m.
Then, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., incoming students, their families and school staff will go to the Beach Pool for a free pool day.
A reminder that teachers' first day of school is Thursday, Aug 1, while students' first day of school is Thursday, Aug 8.
Lee school district drops from B to C overall
Although the School District of Lee County dropped a letter grade from a B to a C overall, the system still fared better, overall, than districts statewide.
The Florida Department of Education released the preliminary school grades for the 2012-13 school year on Friday, and despite higher expectations, many Lee schools showed they were more than capable of keeping up.
Among Lee's 79 district elementary and middle schools, 29 of them, or 37 percent, earned a rating of "A" in the state accountability system, with a large portion of those schools in West Zone, which includes North Fort Myers and Cape Coral.
This compared to 29 percent statewide.
Compared to the largest districts in Florida, Lee County ranked third in the percentage of schools earning a letter grade of "A" or "B," with 56 percent.
Dr. Nancy Graham, Lee County superintendent of schools, was content with the results.
"The bar was raised this year in as far as performance. Five schools improved a letter grade and 41 remained the same while everything got more challenging," Graham said. "I'm pleased. We have work to do with schools that dropped grades, but I'm pleased with the progress."
School grades declined statewide this year because of the many changes that were made to the calculation. The primary impact was felt from the increase of the passing score for FCAT writing (which increased from a score of 3.0 in 2011-12 to a 3.5 last year).
Core curriculum was another reason for the drop.
"This was a tough year. We had a lot of changes, cut scores were raised and we had no extra time to provide training to address those variables," Graham said. "The accountability direction is in transition."
Despite the changes in the school grade calculation, five Lee County schools improved their grades. Bayshore Elementary in North Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach Elementary, Gateway Elementary, Tice Elementary, and Bonita Springs Middle School all increased by at least one letter grade with Bayshore moving from a B to an A.
Three schools in the county received a failing grade.
The results in North Fort Myers and the West Zone were mostly good. In addition to Bayshore Elementary, North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, Tropic Isles, Caloosa, Cape Elementary, Challeger, Diplomat, Gulf, Oasis Charter, Pine Island and Trafalgar elementary schools all earned A grades.
Challenger, Gulf, Diplomat, Oasis Charter, and Trafalgar middle schools also earned A grades.
Dr. Carrie Robinson Elemntary, Hancock Creek Elementary, J. Colin English, Caloosa Middle, Skyline Middle and Cape Coral Charter dropped a grade, from a B to a C.
Moving forward, Graham said she will look at improving these grades in the year ahead by concentrating on areas that need work.
"We need to focus on instruction, what is the purpose of our being, and continue to focus on our core leaders are capable of helping teachers and providing the resources for them to work with our students," Graham said. "It's a group effort and we'll make sure things are in place for people to do well."
High school grades will be finalized when additional data is collected by the state this fall.
To see how your school did, check online at: schoolgrades.fldoe.org and click under Preliminary School Grades for 2013.
--story by Chuck Ballaro