Hillsborough Tops the List for D and F Schools in Florida
Image By: Tampa Bay Times

Hillsborough Tops the List for D and F Schools in Florida

The Hillsborough County school district, once known for a significant number of low-performing schools, finds itself in an undesirable position once again.

Recent data from the Florida Department of Education reveals that the district has more D- and F-graded schools than any other in the state.

Notably, even larger counties like Miami-Dade and Broward have fewer schools with such grades under this year’s unusual grading system.

Due to changes in both the testing system and learning standards, year-to-year comparisons became unreliable. Consequently, the state focused solely on achievement without considering the usual credit for learning growth.

Hillsborough has 32 schools with D’s or F’s, excluding privately managed charters. Just Elementary, one of the district schools, has already temporarily closed due to long-standing challenges related to staffing and student skills.

Two more schools on the list, Adams Middle and Kimbell Elementary, are scheduled for similar closures in June.

Superintendent Van Ayres, reflecting on the new numbers, expressed determination in an interview this week to elevate every school above a D grade and help all students achieve proficiency, particularly in reading.

However, the task ahead is daunting. Last year, slightly over half of the students at these 32 schools tested at Level 1 in English Language Arts, indicating the lowest level of reading skills and the need for “substantial support” to succeed in the following year, according to the state’s classification. Districtwide, just under 32% of students tested at Level 1 in English Language Arts.

Ayres, who was appointed superintendent in June, stated that, “Historically, proficiency has always been an area that has been a struggle.”

Students who receive Level score are deemed “proficient” by the state, indicating that they are “likely to excel in the next grade.”

Students in Level are rated as “below satisfactory” and “likely to need substantial support” in their subsequent year of study.

Level candidates are considered to have passed the state exam because they obtained “satisfactory” scores. According to the state, students at Level have attained “mastery” and are “likely to excel.”

By the time they reach the third grade, when reading comprehension is required for further education, children find it difficult to acquire the skill due to kindergarten readiness rates as low as 16% at some of the 32 schools on the list. Ayres declared, “I’ll take our teachers against anyone in the state. But it’s that starting point.

However, there are also schools in other districts where children lack preparation for kindergarten. Poverty is prevalent throughout Florida, and all 67 districts encountered the same challenges last year, including a new curriculum, new standards, and a shift from once-a-year exams to three testing cycles.

In Pinellas County, for instance, there were four schools with a grade of D and none with an F. While Pasco County had a slightly higher percentage of schools with D’s and F’s compared to Hillsborough, the total number was significantly lower at 14.

Miami-Dade County had five D schools, and none received an F, whereas Broward County had 11 D’s and one F.

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.