INSIDERS: Jefferson County Principal Works To Raise School's D Grade

Insiders: Smells Flunky to Me
Posted at 7:46 AM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2017-12-13 05:24:25-05

This story is part 2 of a 3 part series examining school district grades. Hamilton County school districts also received preliminary D's for 2014-2015 year. We'll take a look at that district in part 3. 

JEFFERSON COUNTY, FL (WTXL) -- In 2014 Jefferson County Elementary started the school year with a failing grade. Legislators revised the Florida Standards and Assessments process and currently the school has a "D' rating.

From an "F" to a "D" may seem like the progress is minimal, however according to Jefferson County Elementary Principal Elijah Keys, it's a step in the right direction, "Our reading and math were both the same. 39% Proficiency in reading and math the prior year. so we were struggling and last year with the FSA coming out, there were talks of that being cut by 50%."

The Florida Standards Assessments or FSA, is a series of tests designed to measure student performance in reading, writing and math. The test is tied to Florida's Common Core-based standards, which outlines what students should know at the end of each grade.

Principal Keys says, "Overall we are not doing what we need to do across the board in order to get ourselves above 50 to 60%. that's what we are working on this year."

Under the new Florida assessment schools are getting grades based on student scores, at Jefferson County Elementary they're hoping to turn their score around.

Keys is also working with teachers and students to implement new systems, holding the teachers and students accountable, through a series of "data checks". Keys says, the goal is to assess progress along the way, but with anything new comes challenges, "Trying to put systems in place and that starts with teachers. You have to build the capacity of teachers and it's not all tied to administrators."

Nicole Roddenberry who teaches the 2nd Grade at Jefferson County Elementary says, "There's been a lot of changes with the Department of Education coming down the pipe with new standards and new curriculum for teachers and students to get adjusted to. I do believe that we are all confident that we are moving forward in the right direction one thing that we are doing is that we are ability grouping."

Ability Grouping places students who are advanced in more challenging courses and the students who need more attention get placed together and receive more one-on-one time with teachers. According to National Center for Education Statistics, the smaller the class, the better the individual student experience.

The study also found that 14% of U.S. schools exceed capacity. Keys is hoping the shift in structure and the classroom can foster success.

Keys is confident things will turn around, "One of the things I can say about this community is that they are tired of failure so they want improvement."

Under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, many public schools have wound up with their curricula narrowed.

Despite the challenges the Florida Department of Education believes school accountability is the secret for success and will lead to performance gains and opportunities for a quality education.

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