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PRESS RELEASE

September 4, 2003

Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413

Education Commissioner Jim Horne Presents Hillcrest Elementary School With School Recognition Dollars
Horne Presents Check for $55,455; Schools statewide receive $137.5 million in school recognition funds this year

LAKE WALES — Commissioner of Education Jim Horne this morning presented Hillcrest Elementary School in Polk County a check for $55,455 in school recognition funds. The school improved its school grade from a "D" to a "B" during the 2002-03 academic year.

"It is my pleasure to present this check to our schools that have worked so hard to achieve this level of student achievement," said Commissioner Horne. "We know our students can learn and this proves it. Governor Bush's A+ Plan and his commitment to education demonstrate that our students continue to meet and exceed our expectations. I congratulate the administrators, teachers, students, and parents for their outstanding efforts."

Hillcrest Elementary's reading program, funded through Reading First, was an integral part of the improvement. The school's new reading coach implemented creative activities that encouraged students to see reading as something enjoyable rather than a chore. Many new clubs that emphasized reading, such as a reading club and a newspaper club, were formed. In addition, creative characters like the Reading Professor and Vocal Vera became a part of the school's morning television program. The Reading Professor often modeled the Fab Five and Vocal Vera taught Valuable Vocabulary.

The A+ School Recognition Program acknowledges schools that are achieving and showing improvement. All of Florida's public schools received report cards with grades on an "A" through "F" scale. The program recognizes schools that have improved at least one letter grade or received an "A" for the 2002-2003 school year. Schools that improve at least one grade or receive an "A" based primarily on student achievement are being rewarded with $100 per student.

In addition to Hillcrest Elementary, 68 other Polk County schools received $4.4 million dollars in school recognition dollars for earning an "A" or showing improvement. Recognition funds can be used by a school to cover the costs of non-recurring faculty and student incentives such as pizza parties, educational equipment, or hiring temporary personnel to assist in maintaining and improving student performance.

Since 1999, $443.3 million has been awarded to eligible schools receiving an "A" performance grade or schools improving at least one performance grade category from the previous year.

Under the leadership of Governor Bush, accomplishments for education include:

  • A+/RISING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: From 1998 to 2003, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) reading scores have improved significantly for students in Florida. Minority students have made the most dramatic improvements. For example, this year 60 percent of all 4th graders met or surpassed the proficient level (scoring Level 3 and above) on the FCAT reading, up from 51 percent in 1998. Other 4th grade improvements include: 41 percent of African American students scored at or above grade level in 2003 compared to 23 percent in 1998. 51 percent of Hispanic students scored at or above grade level in 2003 compared to 38 percent in 1998. 73 percent of white students scored at or above grade level in 2003 compared to 65 percent in 1998.
  • A+ PLAN/SCHOOL GRADES: The results of the FCAT released in May revealed the biggest improvement in student achievement to date. The number of schools receiving a grade of "A" or "B" rose from 1,447 in 2002 to 1,799 this year, while the number of "D" and "F" schools dropped from 249 in 2002 to 176 this year. The Governor's Assistance Plus program continues to provide 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.
  • FUNDING INCREASES: A five-year funding increase of more than $3.7 billion - 34 percent - which far surpasses Florida's significant student growth in the same period of 11 percent. Per student funding has increased by $989 in five years, a 20 percent increase.
  • MENTORING: Currently there are more than 135,000 mentors statewide. Governor Bush has set a goal of 200,000 mentors throughout the state. The budget signed by the Governor this year allocates $12.25 million to support mentoring through such programs as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Governor's Mentoring Initiative, Take Stock in Children and Best Buddies.
  • JUST READ, FLORIDA!: In fiscal year 2003-2004, this initiative received $25 million a 127 percent increase over fiscal year 2002-2003. The initiative is based on the latest reading research that includes emphasis on phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. The goal of the initiative is for every Florida child reading on grade level or better by 2012. The program, unveiled in 2001, prioritizes reading in Florida's public schools and among all the community groups and volunteer organizations that support them.
  • ADVANCED PLACEMENT/PSAT-SAT SCORES: Florida's high school students continue to show improvement on standardized placement tests. The latest results show the number of SAT test takers in Florida increased 10 percent to more than 83,400 - the highest ever. Florida's average verbal score rose two points, due largely to higher scores among Hispanic, African American and Asian males. Results indicate students who take advanced courses have significantly higher scores. The number of Advanced Placement (AP) test takers increased by 19 percent, compared to 10 percent for the U.S. In addition, 14 percent of all public school sophomore PSAT takers are Floridians.

Commissioner Horne visited Hillcrest Elementary on the first leg of a two-day tour of schools in Polk, Volusia, Alachua, Escambia, Okaloosa, and Jackson Counties.

A list of Polk County schools receiving school recognition funds is below.

The Lois Cowels Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts$14,801
Lawton Chiles Middle Academy$56,485
Southwest Middle School$96,293
Carlton Palmore School$60,714
Cleveland Court School$47,702
Combee Elementary School $63,162
Crystal Lake Elementary School $64,532
Dixieland Elementary School $45,055
Lime Street Elementary School$56,800
Medulla Elementary School$66,684
North Lakeland Elementary Choice School $72,852
Lincoln Avenue Academy$49,550
Rochelle School of the Arts $80,300
Jenkins Academy of Technology$31,600
Sandhill Elementary School$88,261
Bethune Academy $42,800
Davenport School of the Arts$42,950
Ridgeview Global Studies $58,750
Brigham Academy $57,154
Westwood Middle School$101,491
Elbert Elementary School $49,154
Garner Elementary School $54,500
Lake Shipp Elementary School$58,370
Lake Alfred Elementary School$46,300
Wahneta Elementary School$54,302
Jewett Academy$55,300
Jewett School of Arts $78,052
Lewis/Anna Woodbury Elementary School$66,566
Stambaugh Middle School$95,660
Lena Vista Elementary School$65,748
Auburndale Central Elementary School $38,240
Caldwell Elementary School$64,566
Polk City Elementary School $55,650
International Baccalaureate Program$20,327
Bartow Middle School$89,052
Bartow Elementary Academy$38,250
Floral Avenue Elementary School$64,652
Union Academy$37,800
Gibbons Street Elementary School>$28,977
Alturas Elementary School$25,260
Highland City Elementary School$43,198
Purcell Elementary School$45,021
Kingsford Elementary School $51,456
Kathleen High School$148,508
Kathleen Middle School$80,800
McLaughlin Middle School $80,801
Hillcrest Elementary School $55,455
Spook Hill Elementary School$69,351
Dale R. Fair Babson Park Elementary School $44,850
Padgett Elementary School$63,328
Oscar J. Pope Elementary School$41,872
McKeel Academy of Applied Technology $90,198
Scott Lake Elementary School$82,410
Garden Grove Elementary School $73,950
Pinewood Elementary School$57,458
James E. Stephens Elementary School$50,582
Lakeland Highlands Middle School$106,235
Clarence A. Boswell Elementary School$49,305
Sikes Elementary School$66,707
Clem R. Churchwell Elementary School $58,652
Wendell Watson Elementary School$78,110
Valleyview Elementary School$119,504
Socrum Elementary School $65,703
Ben Hill Griffin, Jr. Elementary School $41,500
George Jenkins High School$194,984
Berkley Charter School$55,397
Discovery Academy at Lake Alfred$82,702
Sleepy Hill Middle School$99,286
Polk District Total$4,450,475