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Making the Grade: Number of 'A' rated high schools nearly doubles in Collier County

Golden Gate High School jumped to an A from a C.

Photo by KATHERINE ROSENBERG // Buy this photo

Golden Gate High School jumped to an A from a C.

For Golden Gate High School, it was a success story 10 years in the making.

The number of "A" high schools in Collier County has nearly doubled from four in 2012 to seven in 2013, according to preliminary grades released Wednesday by the Florida Department of Education. When Golden Gate High School earned an A, it was the first in the school’s 10-year history, and marked a significant jump from the C grade it earned last year.

Of 579 high schools in the state with a C grade in 2012, Golden Gate was one of only 16 — or just 2.8 percent — made the jump to an A grade in 2013.

"We have a saying, ‘Making our way to an A,’ and now we made it, on our 10-year-anniversary," said junior Adriana Vega. "It was difficult hearing around Collier County that we’re a C school and we’re never going to be an A school and now we proved we deserve to be an A school."

Joining Golden Gate were Barron Collier, Lely, Lorenzo Walker Technical and Gulf Coast high schools — all A schools in 2012 — along with Naples and Palmetto Ridge high schools, which were rated B schools in 2012.

Immokalee High School jumped from a C to receiving its first-ever B this year, according to the state data and Superintendent Kamela Patton.

"They missed being an A by just 32 points out of a possible 1,050 needed to earn an A," she said.

High school grades are based on a 1,600 point scale — 800 of which come directly from Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores — and to be named an A school, a school must score at least 1,050 points. Other components specific to high schools, and which make up 50 percent of a school’s grade, are acceleration, graduation rate and college readiness.

Collier did have two schools that dropped a letter grade. Everglades City School and Marco Island Academy, both of which are evaluated on a different scale than traditional high schools, each dropped from a C to a D.

The schools are graded on an 800 point scale for FCAT scores, but they’re not eligible for the other 800 points for various reasons, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to the school grading formula.

Marco Island Academy Principal George Andreozzi could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Golden Gate High School Principal Jose Hernandez, who has seen the school go from an F to an A in his tenure, said an A grade is not easy to come by.

"We’ve been working at it, and chipping away at it. It truly is a team effort. It’s everyone in the school, the students commitment and belief in themselves ... the community support, all of those things play a role in any school’s success, but certainly in Golden Gate’s," said Hernandez, who was off campus in meetings Wednesday but recorded an announcement in advance so that the students would hear the news from him.

Hernandez said the school’s philosophy is to address all areas, because students come with a "variety of needs, and they come with a variety of hopes and dreams."

"We have to have the right support in place for all of our kids, not just some," he said.

Those numerous efforts included increasing career certifications, advanced placement classes, dual enrollment classes and taking the reading score, which was 26 percent when Hernandez took the helm at the school, and nearly doubling it.

"We did a lot to try to improve our school grade. We needed to work on work readiness and college preparation," math teacher Derek Harp said. "It’s the culmination of all those extra things we did: Saturdays for Success; tutoring; focusing on certifications including Photoshop and child development; dual enrollment — all that led to our significant improvement."

In south Lee County, South Fort Myers and Estero High Schools saw their grades drop from A to B.

Statewide, a record number of Florida high schools and combination schools earned an A this year, with 240 schools — or 48 percent — earning the highest grade.

"I am very pleased with how we performed compared to the rest of the state," Patton said. "While 48 percent of Florida’s high schools received an A, 88 percent of our high schools received an A."

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said legislation passed in 2011 dictates that next year’s scores will be evaluated on a stricter scale because more than 75 percent of schools scored an A or B.

"Since 82 percent of high schools have earned As or Bs, it triggers an adjustment. It will become more difficult for high schools to earn an A or B designation," she said. "This is the first time this will have happened since the rule kicked in."

Currently it takes a score of 66 percent to earn an A and that will change to 70 percent. It now takes 62 percent to get a B grade, and that will become 65 percent, said Deputy Commissioner Juan Copa.

This year the state also had a provision referred to as a safety net, that would not allow a school to drop more than one letter grade in a year. Copa said there were only seven high schools in the state that ended up being protected by the safety net, and two of those were Ds that would have been Fs.

None of the high schools protected by the state’s safety net were in Collier County.

Stewart also said the grading will need to be overhauled with the changes coming to the assessment tests in conjunction with the Common Core State Standards.

"We will need to totally redo our school grading," Stewart said. "I think we could fairly safely say that we could expect student performance could drop in the first baseline year because these are more rigorous standards, and moving to a new, harder assessment, students would not perform as well. We’re raising the bar, it’s what’s best for our students."

For a complete list of preliminary high school grades, visit http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/

Are you viewing this story on our mobile or tablet app? Click here to read this story on our full site to see our interactive timeline videos and files.

© 2013 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 8

okadam writes:

Your lead two paragraphs are wrong. Lorenzo Walker Technical High School was an "A" school last year and remains an "A" school this year.

tld50 writes:

What a great day for Collier County Public Schools! Great work teachers!

okadam writes:

in response to okadam:

Your lead two paragraphs are wrong. Lorenzo Walker Technical High School was an "A" school last year and remains an "A" school this year.

The 1st 2 paragraphs have been corrected now to include Lorenzo Walker Technical High School!

Robertofnaples writes:

Was it not noted in September that Collier County schools dropped a full letter grade? Who's doing the grading here? What criteria are they using? Is it the same people who did this 3 months ago?

ba1pkrfan writes:

Congratulations to Golden Gate High School. As a parent and SAC member, I am so proud of MY school. Congratulations to all the faculty and students at Golden Gate High School. TITAN PRIDE!

MoeLaxCoach writes:

in response to Robertofnaples:

Was it not noted in September that Collier County schools dropped a full letter grade? Who's doing the grading here? What criteria are they using? Is it the same people who did this 3 months ago?

These kids have worked really hard. Why is it that there is always some angry old crow in Naples who cannot allow them a positive moment? Why is that? Is your life so pathetic that you must try and bring other people down? That happens when your life becomes irrelevant. Is that you?

trusted1948#275020 writes:

Our high school students, teachers and administrators deserve commendation for the A grade.

Just a note of caution: we should be careful in interpreting these results. The article points out that "it takes a score of 66 percent to earn an A." On the student grading scale, 66 percent is equivalent to an F. Next year, when the Department of Education adjusts the school grading scale, we might be scrambling for excuses on why most of our high schools dropped their grade from A to a lower grade.

BostonRedSoxFan writes:

in response to MoeLaxCoach:

These kids have worked really hard. Why is it that there is always some angry old crow in Naples who cannot allow them a positive moment? Why is that? Is your life so pathetic that you must try and bring other people down? That happens when your life becomes irrelevant. Is that you?

I don't know "Robert of Naples" but I think that all he wants is more information - maybe a better reporter. Congrats are appropriate for the schools, but how can they continue to be made even better? WHAT were they graded on? What did they do to become better? Don't let the students, teachers, or Boards of Education rest on their laurels. They must continue to become better in the future even if that means going from an "A" to an "A+" rating. Attempting to put things in perspective is not improper. We need to read articles in the newspaper and put them in the proper perspective so that we don't let things go bad in the future.

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