Innovation and trends at Florida's K-12 schools
FLORIDA’S K-12 EDUCATION SYSTEM is a key component of the state’s economy in at least two ways: Each school district is typically one of the largest employers in its county. In addition, the quality of education that the system provides is fundamental in developing the basic skills essential to a healthy local workforce.
In recent years, Florida has made strides in early-year and elementary education, achieving notable gains among minority and economically disadvantaged students who had lagged in achievement. Education experts have noted, however, that the gains tended to plateau or even subside as students reached middle school and went on to high school.
For this report, Florida Trend focuses on high schools around the state, highlighting data on scores, examples of innovation and notable trends — including the growth in the number of foreign students who come to Florida for high school at both public and private schools.
The overall picture isn’t always pretty, but throughout Florida there are pockets of excellence and innovation where local educators haven’t been afraid to experiment with the system in the interest of better serving students.
Florida’s High Schools
The Big Picture
• Overall, the top-performing schools in the state tend to be “choice” and specialty schools that offer specialized study options, ranging from math and Greek to marine science. Among this group are combined junior and senior high schools, schools focused on technical education and dualenrollment schools in which high school students take courses at a local state college.
» In terms of “total points” in the state’s ranking system, the top nine highest-scoring schools in the state are combined, grades 7-12 or grades 6-12 schools, including West Shore Junior Senior High and Edgewood Junior Senior High, both in Brevard County, MAST Academy in Miami-Dade and Osceola County School for the Arts.
• Many Florida high schools do a good job teaching student populations with large cohorts of minorities and/or economically disadvantaged students. Charter High School of the Americas in Miami-Dade, for example, has an 839-student population that’s 100% minority and 98% economically disadvantaged. That school had the highest gains in English among its lowest-performing students among all high schools in the state. Among the 20 schools with the highest math gains among their lowest-performing students, six are in Miami-Dade; fi ve of those had more than 90% minority student populations.
• Most schools that receive Title 1 federal aid — intended to help schools with high percentages of lowincome students — do not do well in state rankings. Among the grade 9-12 high schools, there were only six Title 1 schools among the top 100 in total points. Four were public charter schools. The highest-scoring non-charter Title 1 school in 2015-16 was Lorenzo Walker Technical High in Collier County, No. 40.
• Public charter high schools are represented among both the highest-achieving schools and the lowest-achieving schools.
» Among the 20 schools with the lowest gains in English for lowperforming English students in 2015- 16, four were charters. Among the 20 with the lowest math gains, eight are charters.
» Charters are also represented among the highest-achieving schools. Among the 20 schools with the highest gains in English among the lowestperforming students, for example, 10 were charters. Among the 20 schools with the highest gains in math among their lowest-performing math students, 12 were charters. Among the 20 highest-scoring 9-12 high schools in 2015-16, 11 were charters.
The schools with the biggest gains in English for the lowestperforming 25% of students were Charter High School of the Americas in Miami and Collegiate High School in Niceville in northwest Florida, also a charter. Both have fewer than 300 students.
Among larger 9-12 high schools, only Creekside High School and Ponte Vedra High in St. Johns, Coral Reef Senior High in Miami-Dade, Stanton College Preparatory School in Duval and Pompano Beach High School in Broward achieved English gains for more than 60% of their lowestperforming students.
Among the schools with notable gains in math achievement for the lowestperforming 25% of their students were:
» West Shore Junior-Senior High in Brevard County, with 88% of the lowest performers showing gains. Enrollment: 961.
» North Bay Haven Charter Academy in Bay County, a charter school, with 82% of the lowest performers showing gains. Enrollment: 543.
» Edgewood Junior Senior High in Brevard County, with 81% of the lowest performers showing gains. Enrollment: 950.
» Among larger 9-12 high schools, only Satellite High in Brevard, University High School in Orange, Pompano Beach High School in Broward and Clewiston High School in Hendry had math gains for more than 60% of their lowest math performers.
Florida’s Best High Schools
The state changed its grading system in 2014-15, making an apples-to-apples comparison with earlier years problematic. Florida Trend looked at school scores (total points) for the 2015-16 year.
How the State Scores High Schools
A school gets points based on:
» The percentage of students who achieved passing scores on statewide standardized tests — including end-of-course tests — in English, math, science and social studies.
» Learning gains in math and English by all students and by those among the lowest-performing 25% of students at the school.
» The percentage of students who pass a high-school level end-of-course test or industry certification.
» The graduation rate, based on how many ninth-grade students finish within four years.
» The percentage of students who earn a passing score on the Advanced Placement or similar-type test or who pass a college-level course in a dual enrollment program.
» Each school has a maximum number of points available. A school earns an A if it achieves 62% of its possible points. B=54-61%. C=41-53. D=32-40%. F=31% or fewer.