These Florida public schools beat the odds in the latest school grades

Travis Pillow

Schools that received A’s in Florida’s latest round of school grades while serving large proportions of disadvantaged students tend to share at least one of two features in common: Either they’re charter schools, or they’re located in Miami-Dade County.

The state Department of Education released letter grades this morning based on public schools’ achievement in the 2014-15 school year.

Because this is the first round of scores based on new state assessments, and there isn’t enough data to calculate learning gains, the A-F ratings released this morning are considered a baseline for future years.

Some schools that serve large numbers of low-income students saw their grades fall. Those schools tend to earn higher marks for learning gains, which measure student progress from one year to the next, than they do for student proficiency.

But 11 schools stood out. At least nine in 10 of their students were designated “economically disadvantaged,” and they still managed to earn A’s. Five of those schools were charters, and seven were in Miami-Dade. Only two traditional schools outside Miami-Dade — one in Escambia County and one in Palm Beach — achieved that feat.

School accountability advocates caution this year’s grades are “informational,” and that in a few months, grades will be released for the 2015-16 school year based on fuller range of student achievement data, including learning gains.

In a statement, Patricia Levesque, the director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, said:

These grades give us our first glimpse into how schools are performing during the transition to more rigorous academic standards and assessments. They are for informational purposes only, carrying no sanctions but rewarding those schools that we know produced good results for children this past year.

It may hard to fully judge a school based on this year’s results, but it’s worth highlighting these top performers that helped students overcome economic disadvantages:

CHARTER SCHOOLS OF EXCELLENCE RIVERLAND (Broward, Charter)
MATER ACADEMY (Dade, Charter)
DADE FAIRLAWN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Dade)
DADE MIAMI GARDENS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Dade)
DADE ROYAL GREEN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Dade)
DADE ROYAL PALM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Dade)
DADE MATER ACADEMY MIDDLE SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES (Dade, Charter)
DADE MATER ACADEMY EAST CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL (Dade, Charter)
ESCAMBIA LINCOLN PARK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Escambia)
FRANKLIN APALACHICOLA BAY CHARTER SCHOOL (Franklin, Charter)
PALM BEACH WYNNEBROOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Palm Beach)

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