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Press Release

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Governor's Press Office
(850) 488-5394

Governor Crist Highlights School Achievement As New School Year Begins
~ Florida’s Differentiated Accountability school improvement model proves successful ~

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist today hosted a Tallahassee Tuesday discussion with faculty and principals from five public schools that improved their school grade from “F” to “A” in one year. Principals and teachers shared strategies and best practices that led to the turnaround of Mollie Ray Elementary School of Orlando, Navy Point Elementary School of Pensacola, George S. Hallmark Elementary School of Pensacola, Liberty City Elementary School of Miami and Miami Community Charter School of Florida City.

“I believe we need to do everything possible to make sure our children have the world class schools and educational opportunity they deserve,” said Governor Crist. “These schools are a testament to the great progress that can be made when schools, leaders, teachers, parents and students work together.”

Six elementary schools achieved a momentous feat of jumping from a school grade of “F” up to “A” for the 2008-09 school year. Each school experienced remarkable turnarounds with the assistance of the state’s Differentiated Accountability school improvement model. In addition to their school grade improvements, each school was also able to meet 100 percent of the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements established by the No Child Left Behind Act, despite the standards for achieving AYP being raised considerably.

All participating schools struggled to achieve a passing school grade prior to the implementation of the Differentiated Accountability school improvement plan. George S. Hallmark Elementary School received its first “F” grade in 2004-05, and moved up to a “D” for two years before dropping again to an “F.” Navy Point Elementary School had received “C” grades since 2004-05. Mollie E. Ray Elementary School, a school with a nearly 100 percent minority population, received a “D” grade in 2006-07 before dropping to an “F.” Liberty City Elementary School struggled with “C” grades since 2003-04. Miami Community Charter had earned “C” grades since 2005-06.

The Florida Department of Education implemented the Differentiated Accountability school improvement plan last year as a pilot program and with the signing of House Bill 1908 expanded the program this year to include all schools in the state of Florida. The Differentiated Accountability plan enables the Florida Department of Education to work alongside school districts to identify struggling schools and develop custom instruction and other support services to ensure these schools and their students succeed. The program is founded on the creation of regional support teams working side-by-side with district and school personnel to identify areas of improvement, and create long term strategies to enable students to achieve in specific areas such as reading, mathematics and science.

With the help of state and district resources, each of the successful schools combined a variety of tactics and strategies to create and foster an environment of success for students and teachers to both thrive. Each school tailored a plan to specifically cater to their students' needs. Plans and methods included:

  • Target students who need the most assistance by identifying skills in need of improvement
  • Track students’ strengths and weaknesses through extensive monitoring.
  • Encourage parents’ participation by requiring parents to visit school to receive report cards. If parents were unable to visit, a school’s principal or staff made a home visit.
  • Make after-school tutoring more readily available through services such as Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and other school-sponsored programs.
  • Offer study skills classes to teach time management and organization, while increasing classroom instruction.
  • Ensure teaching staff has commitment, passion and enthusiasm to be in the classroom.

With the expansion of the Differentiated Accountability program this year, 2,379 schools will be eligible for monitoring or support including 16 schools that will be receiving the most intensive level of assistance. Last year, 1,082 schools were part of the pilot project with 39 schools receiving the most intensive assistance. In only its first year of implementation, the majority of Differentiated Accountability’s lowest performing schools (schools listed in the “Intervene” category or earning an “F” grade in 2008) showed significant increases in student performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).

“When every individual works together to help our schools, the results can be phenomenal,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Eric Smith. “The tremendous academic gains achieved by each of these schools are a true testament to the dedication and commitment of our teachers, parents, and administrators, and I am extremely proud of their efforts.”

Yesterday, Governor Crist continued to prepare for the new school year and addressed the Charter Schools USA 4th Annual Summit where he emphasized the importance of quality education and giving school choice to parents and students. Last week, the Governor, State Surgeon General Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros and Education Commissioner Dr. Eric Smith toured the state to raise awareness and promote back-to-school health safety. By August 24th all school districts will have begun the school year.

To learn more about Differentiated Accountability, visit