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August 31, 2005

Jennifer Fennell or
Cheryl Etters
(850) 245-0413

Department of Education Awards $134 Million to High-Performing Schools
Columbia Schools to receive more than $326,000 in school recognition funding

LAKE CITY, FL — Education Commissioner John L. Winn and state education officials announced $134 million in funding to 1,502 Florida schools in recognition of academic achievement and significant improvement for school year 2004-05. Under the A+ School Recognition Program, schools that achieve an "A" or improve at least one grade from the previous year are awarded $100 per student. Since 1999, Florida has awarded more than $695 million in school recognition funding.

"It is a pleasure to recognize Florida schools that have worked so hard to succeed and made great strides in student achievement," said Department of Education K-12 Deputy Chancellor for Student Achievement Mary Jane Tappen. "I congratulate them for their efforts and wish them another year of success."

At a general assembly of Niblack Elementary School today, Deputy Chancellor Tappen joined by Columbia District Superintendent Grady Markham awarded $26,150 to the school for improving from an "F" to a "C". She commended the school's students, faculty and administrators for their creative approach to improving. Special programs, such as the school's summer reading camps, have helped students meet high standards in reading and make significant reading gains. The student population at the school is 96 percent minority, with a free and reduced lunch rate of 94 percent.

Schools in Columbia County will receive more than $326,000 for showing improvement or earning an "A" grade (see attached). Recognition funds can be used by a school to cover the costs of non-recurring faculty incentives, such as educational equipment, new technology, staff bonuses, or hiring temporary personnel to assist in maintaining and improving student performance.

To highlight the success of schools throughout the state, Governor Jeb Bush visited schools in Duval and Pinellas counties and Commissioner Winn visited schools in Indian River and Miami-Dade counties. Deputy Chancellor Tappen also visited a school in Gadsden County.

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

  • A+/RISING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: Since 1999, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) reading and math scores have continued to improve, with the most dramatic improvements made by minority students. For example, this year 71 percent of all fourth graders could read at or above grade level, up from 48 percent in 1999. Twice as many African-American and Hispanic fourth graders are reading at or above grade level. In 2005, 56 percent of African-American students scored at or above grade level compared to 23 percent in 1999 and 66 percent of Hispanic students scored at or above grade level compared to 37 percent in 1999. The percent of third through fifth graders scoring at or above grade level has gone up remarkably since ending social promotion in 2003, with 69 percent of all third through fifth graders reading at or above grade level, up 55 percent from 2001.

  • A+ PLAN/SCHOOL GRADES: In 1999, when school grading began, the number of "D" and "F" schools outweighed the number of "A" and "B" schools 677 to 515. Following the 2004-05 academic year, the number of schools receiving a grade of "A" or "B" rose to 1,843, while the number of "D" and "F" schools dropped to 308. This year, 66 percent of Florida schools received an "A" or "B" grade, while only 12 percent received a "D" or "F" grade. In 1995, the State of Florida had 158 low-performing schools. Despite the fact that student performance standards have been raised three times since then, the number of low-performing schools has been cut in half. 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: Funding for K-12 has increased by 54 percent in the last seven years, providing $6.1 billion more in 2005-06 than in 1998-99. Per student funding has increased by $1,564 in seven years, a 32 percent increase. During this time, the state has dedicated nearly $100 billion to education.

  • MENTORING: In 1999, the Governor's Mentoring Initiative was established to help students excel in school and life by recruiting 200,000 mentors statewide. This year, after recruiting more than 204,000 mentors, the initiative was renamed the Florida Mentoring Partnership, to reflect the strong alliance among the many organizations and individuals that work in concert to keep mentoring strong in Florida. Additionally, the Partnership has formed an advocacy council that will work to keep mentoring at the forefront of state policy and statewide practice.

  • JUST READ, FLORIDA!: In fiscal year 2005-06, this initiative received $89 million for a K-12 comprehensive, district-wide system of research-based reading instruction with $50,000 minimum for each school district. Since 2002, Just Read, Florida! has used state and federal funding to provide reading coaches for teachers. Reading coaches serve teachers through modeling lessons, delivering professional development, analyzing data, and administering assessments. For the 2005-06 school year, approximately 2,000 K-12 reading coaches will serve approximately 80,000 teachers and nearly 1.7 million students statewide. Just Read, Florida! is the Governor's statewide reading initiative designed to achieve the goal of every child reading at or above grade level by the year 2012.

  • ADVANCED PLACEMENT/PSAT-SAT TESTS: Record numbers of Florida students are taking college entrance and Advanced Placement (AP) exams, with the percentage of minority students taking the exams steadily increasing and surpassing the national averages. The latest results show the number of SAT test takers in Florida increased seven percent to more than 93,500 — the highest ever. In the class of 2005, there was a 15.5 percent increase in the number of African-American students taking the SAT and a 24.7 percent increase in the number of Hispanic students taking the exam. Similar trends were reflected in the number of Florida ACT test-takers. In 2005, African Americans represented 20 percent of the Florida test takers compared to only 13 percent nationwide. Hispanic students comprised 16 percent of Florida ACT test-takers compared to only eight percent for the nation. Additionally, Florida has the second greatest increase in the number of public school AP exam-takers when compared to all other states from 2004 to 2005.

Eastside Elementary School $47,873.00
Summers Elementary School $80,612.00
Niblack Elementary School $26,150.00
Lake City Middle School $108,276.00
Columbia City Elementary School $63,290.00
DISTRICT TOTAL $326,201.00

For a complete list click here.