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MEDIA ADVISORY

June 18, 2003

ALIA FARAJ
(850) 488-5394

Frances Marine
Press Secretary
(850) 245-0413

Governor Jeb Bush and Education Commissioner Jim Horne Announce 2003 School Grades
Six hundred percent increase in ‘A’ Schools

TALLAHASSEE — Governor Jeb Bush and Education Commissioner Jim Horne today announced the 2003 School Grades under the A+ Plan for Education. They were joined by Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings and Chancellor for K-12 Public Schools Jim Warford, as well as Principal Alejandro ‘Alex’ Perez from Comstock Elementary in Miami-Dade County and Principal Rosa Barkley from Stewart Street Elementary in Gadsden County. Today, Florida is home to more than six times as many ‘A’ schools as it was in 1999, while the number of failing schools has dropped by more than half since 1999.

“Time and again, when we raise the bar, our schools step up to the challenge – which means more children are learning,” said Governor Bush. “We are finding out where our children need help and principals like Alex Perez and Rosa Barkley, along with teachers, parents and entire communities, are finding innovative ways to help students achieve.”

The results of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) released last month revealed the biggest improvement in student achievement to date. As a result, school grades improved across the state. School grades are calculated by measuring student achievement, learning gains, and the improvement of the lowest-performing students at each school.

The number of schools receiving a grade of ‘A’ or ‘B’ rose from 1447 in 2002 to 1799 this year, while the number of ‘D’ and ‘F’ schools dropped from 249 in 2002 to 176 this year. Those schools that improved their performance by one or more letter grades or maintained a grade of ‘A’ will receive School Recognition Funds. Of the schools graded this year, 60 percent will receive School Recognition Funds.

More than 40 percent of the schools that will receive School Recognition Funds this year have student poverty levels of 51 percent or higher. Comstock Elementary and Stewart Street Elementary are two such schools.

Almost all of the children that attend Comstock (99 percent) and the overwhelming majority of children at Stewart Street (82 percent) qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Moreover, most of the students at both schools – 99 percent of those at Comstock and 98 percent of those at Stewart Street – are members of the ethnic groups that demonstrated the most impressive learning gains on the FCAT, African Americans and Hispanics.

“This year’s school grades demonstrate that when we set high standards and work hard, all children can learn,” said Commissioner Horne. “We must help all our students and all our schools achieve by giving them the tools they need to improve, such as pairing them with schools that have successfully faced similar challenges.”

The Assistance Plus plan provides failing schools with additional resources to address their areas of weakness. In addition to increased funding – approximately $1,000 more per student – failing schools receive school improvement facilitators, reading coaches, and technical assistance, as well as assessments to monitor student progress.

Those students attending schools that have received a grade of ‘F’ twice in the past four years are eligible for parental school choice. Parents may choose to work with the Assistance Plus staff at the failing school to improve that school’s educational environment, they may transfer their child to a higher performing public school, or they may enroll their child in a private school that participates in the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Parents must file their intent to participate in the program by July 1, 2003.

For more information regarding school grades, Assistance Plus, parental school choice, School Recognition Funds, and profiles of successful schools, please visit the 2003 School Grades website at schoolgrades.fldoe.org.