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Sanibel, Lee County schools earn highest grades in Florida

By Staff | Jun 24, 2009

The Florida Department of Education released Thursday the 2009 school grades for Lee County and, for the first time ever the district received an A grade.

Sixty schools in Lee received an A, the highest ever since the grading system was introduced in 1999, and 11 schools earned a B. Thirteen schools climbed from a lesser grade last year to an A in 2009.

The Sanibel School earned an A for the sixth consecutive year, the only combination school (of 11 such facilities in the county) to achieve the honor each year since 2004. Recognized last year as a National Blue Ribbon School, it was one of only 21 schools to receive an A each of the past six years.

The district reported that 71 out of 88 schools – or 80 percent – were given an A or B this year.

“Everyone in the district and community should be proud of our district earning an A grade. It’s an outstanding accomplishment and I give all the credit to our students, teachers, principals and schools,” said Superintendent James Browder in a prepared statement.

Grades are determined by student achievement on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Schools and districts are awarded a certain number of points based on test results, and those are used to determine a grade.

According to Dr. Richard Itzen, director of accountability, the school grading system has eight criteria focusing on the number of students scoring at or above grade level and whether students make learning gains.

“The percent of your students (scoring at grade level) equals the number of points you get,” said Itzen.

If, for example, 70 percent of students scored at or above grade level on the FCAT, the district would receive 70 points. Once the points are tallied, districts receive an A for having more than 525 points, a B for 495 points, a C for 435 points and D for 395.

The Lee County School District earned 538 points this year. Itzen said any schools that maintained an A or increased one or more grade levels will receive $75 per student. The amount dropped from $85 in 2008.

Last year, Lee County missed the A grade by only a few points. District officials contested the B grade, but the Florida Department of Education refused to alter it.

This year is the fourth year in a row that no schools in Lee County earned an F. Overall, 14 received a C and three a D.

A majority of Cape Coral schools earned grades of A, except for some high schools which received grades ranging from C to D. Mariner High and Cape Coral High earned a C, while Island Coast High earned a D.

On the other hand, North Fort Myers High and Ida S. Baker High earned an A. The city of Cape Coral Charter System had all four of its schools earn an A. Browder said some district schools saw their grades drop in 2009, and that officials will take a look at possible reasons for why the schools experienced decreased performance.

“We’ll take a critical look at our high school performance,” he said.

During last week’s meeting of the Lee County School Board, members approved new contracts for teachers and support personnel. They also changed the scheduling format to a four-by-four block system where teachers instruct for seven out of eight periods over two days.

Students who score a level 1 on the FCAT are required to take block classes – two 45-minute periods. Browder said the new schedule will provide more instructional time for students.

“Moving to a four-by-four, alternating block schedule next year would allow additional time for high school students to receive reading, writing and math instruction,” he said.