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PRESS RELEASE

September 5, 2003

Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413

Education Commissioner Jim Horne Presents Grand Ridge High School With School Recognition Dollars
Horne Presents Check for $51,927; Schools statewide receive $137.5 million in school recognition funds this year

GRAND RIDGE — On the sixth stop of a two-day School Recognition Tour, Education Commissioner Jim Horne this afternoon presented Grand Ridge High School in Jackson County a check for $51,927 in school recognition funds. The school improved its school grade from a "C" to an "A" 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."

Grand Ridge, a PK-12 school, provided intensive courses for struggling readers using Aim High, FCAT Explorer, and Skills Bank. They also integrated reading into all subjects, including physical education and music. FCAT Explorer is an Internet-based practice and skills reinforcement tool based on the Sunshine State Standards. It is provided free of charge by the Department of Education to Florida's public school students and teachers.

The student population at Grand Ridge is 22 percent minority with 51 percent receiving free- and reduced-priced lunch. Seventy two percent of students made learning gains in reading, 81 percent made learning gains in math, and 77 percent made learning gains in writing.

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 Grand Ridge, nine other Jackson County schools received $469,708 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.

Grand Ridge High School was the final stop of a two-day tour of schools in Polk, Volusia, Alachua, Escambia, Okaloosa, and Jackson Counties.

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

Jackson Academy of Applied Technology$15,655
Riverside Elementary School$68,102
Marianna Middle School $65,645
Malone High School $53,365
Sneads High School $52,413
Sneads Elementary School $46,158
Grand Ridge High School$51,927
Cottondale Elementary School$40,630
Graceville Elementary School$39,240
Graceville High School$36,573
Jackson County total$469,708