Analysis: The Best High-Poverty Public Schools in Florida – 2018

Re-posted from an op-ed column in The Capitolist, Tallahassee.

by Lane Wright

Florida’s department of education judges schools on an A-F scale. But not all As are created equal. I’m not trying to take anything away from higher-income areas, but it’s not as hard to help rich and middle class kids succeed in school as it is to help students from poor families. And historically, low-income students, along with black and Hispanic students, English learners, and students with disabilities have struggled compared to their white and well-enough-off peers.

It’s a nice accomplishment for every school that gets an A, but the schools getting As while serving students with the highest needs should really get our attention and high praise. I also think we should be studying them to find out what they’re getting right, or at least find out how their students are overcoming such major obstacles.

I wanted to identify these schools. For the sake of simplicity, I defined “high-poverty” as a school with 95-100 percent of its students fitting into the “economically disadvantaged” category. Then I filtered out all but the A schools and ranked them by which schools scored the highest percentage of total possible points. Obviously I could have had a broader definition of “high-poverty,” and I could have expanded it to A and B schools, but I wanted to put a special focus on the best schools who have the biggest challenges.

The Results

In Florida, 66 high-poverty schools scored an A on the 2018 report card. To put that in context, of 1,028 A-rated schools in the state, 66 (6.4 percent) are high-poverty schools. Also, compared to all 999 high-poverty schools in the state, 66 (6.6 percent) got As. If you’re curious, 183 schools from this high-poverty set got Bs, 556 got Cs, 145 got Ds, and 26 got Fs.

All of the A schools deserve to be commended (B schools too), but I wanted to highlight a few of the A schools that stood out above the rest.

St. Peter’s Academy (charter), Indian River Demographics 100 percent economically disadvantaged 87.1 percent minority Proficiency Levels: English Language Arts 86 percent of students are at or above proficiency Math 84 percent of students are at or above proficiency Science 76 percent of students are at or above proficiency 91 and 90 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively. What makes them stand out? Got the highest score (percent-wise) compared to other schools with 95-100 percent economically disadvantaged students Jumped from a C in 2017 to an A this year Highest growth among its lowest-performing students

Dr. William A Chapman Elementary, Miami-Dade Demographics 97.7 percent economically disadvantaged 97.5 percent minority Proficiency Levels English Language Arts 70 percent of students are at or above proficiency Math 83 percent of students are at or above proficiency Science 77 percent of students are at or above proficiency 67 and 93 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively. What makes them stand out? Got A grades two years in a row, rising up from a C in 2016. It’s the highest performing non-charter school in the high-poverty group.

Greensboro Elementary School, Gadsden Demographics 100 percent economically disadvantaged 89 percent minority Proficiency Levels English Language Arts 44 percent of students are at or above proficiency Math 75 percent of students are at or above proficiency 95 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math. What makes them stand out? Got A grade after two years at a C Highest percentage among high-poverty rural schools.

Keystone Heights Elementary School, Clay Demographics 100 percent economically disadvantaged 9.1 percent minority Proficiency Levels: English Language Arts 67 percent of students are at or above proficiency Math 79 percent of students are at or above proficiency Science 80 percent of students are at or above proficiency 54 and 82 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively. What makes them stand out? Highest performing high-poverty school with mostly white students (90.9 percent white)

Crossroad Academy (charter), Gadsden Demographics 100 percent economically disadvantaged 98.7 percent minority Proficiency Levels: English Language Arts 57 percent of students are at or above proficiency Math 64 percent of students are at or above proficiency Science 55 percent of students are at or above proficiency 61 and 62 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively. What makes them stand out? 100 percent graduation rate 100 percent of students scored on an college-credit exam

Mater Academy High School of International Studies (charter), Miami-Dade Demographics 96.2 percent economically disadvantaged 96 percent minority Proficiency Levels: English Language Arts 86 percent of students are at or above proficiency Math 76 percent of students are at or above proficiency 77 and 64 percent of students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively. What makes them stand out? Best high-poverty charter high school

Pine Island Elementary School, Miami-Dade Demographics 96.2 percent economically disadvantaged 35.3 percent minority Proficiency Levels: English Language Arts 67 percent of students are at or above proficiency Math 84 percent of students are at or above proficiency Science 72 percent of students are at or above proficiency 47 and 63 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively. What makes them stand out? Longest A-streak – 20 years in a row getting A grades.

The full data set, which was extracted from the Florida Department of Education’s School Grades spreadsheet, can be seen here: http://thecapitolist.com/analysis-the-best-high-poverty-public-schools-in-florida-2018/  . It’s also important to note that these ratings are based heavily on test scores which don’t tell us the whole story about a school’s quality. But standardized tests can still shine a useful spotlight and guide us to schools like these that are helping students with the greatest obstacles succeed in school.

Lane Wright is Director of Policy Analysis at Education Post