School grades: Palm Beach County logs improvements, retains B grade


Palm Beach County continues to reign as Florida’s highest performing large urban school district, and held its B rating for a second year, but its lead is shrinking as districts such as Miami-Dade and Broward make bigger strides in student performance, according to data released Wednesday by the state’s Department of Education.

State officials found much to boast about in the final tabulations.

The number of A-rated Florida districts went from three to 11, including Martin County public schools. At the campus level, the percentage of schools statewide earning a grade of A or B grew to 57 percent from 46 percent, while the number of F-rated schools fell by more than half.

Palm Beach County, which improved its overall score but not its grade, matched the state’s share of A and B-rated schools. It was a rate that held true for the 117 schools that are district-run and the 36 charters that are operated with public money but private management.

The county saw 41 schools go up at least one letter grade, including two high schools: Boynton Beach and Olympic Heights. Two public schools and four charters made a two-letter improvement. Washington Elementary in Riviera Beach recorded the biggest gains, leaping to a B from last year’s F.

“I just sent an email congratulating my teachers,” Washington Principal Sandra Edwards said. She credited the improvement to a longer school day, buy-in from parents to cut student absences and tardies and a change in daily lessons.

Still, 21 schools in the county saw their grades drop one letter, including five in some of the county’s poorest communities — Belle Glade, Riviera Beach and Lake Worth — that dropped from a C to a D.

Five schools in the county failed. Three of those are charter schools. The other two were district schools aimed at educating the most struggling students. One of those schools is closing, the other, Gold Coast, is merging with another school as the district works to find a better model to help those students.

Every year, the state calculates school grades based on up to 11 components, including student scores on statewide exams and gains made over the previous year. Palm Beach County outranked its urban district peers in five of those components including achievement in math, science, social studies and graduation rates.

The formula also takes into account student achievement in advanced courses or those that earn industry certifications. Nearly half of Palm Beach County’s 21-point gain was made by placing more middle school students in those courses, according to the data.

That 21-point gain lags the statewide average of nearly 25 points and also is less than those logged by all of the large urban districts but Orange and Pinellas counties.

Where the district is struggling is with its youngest readers, particularly those who are just learning English, said Deputy Superintendent David Christiansen.

“That has been a soft spot for us. We have to do a better job in pre-k through 2,” Christiansen said. The district has re-organized its central office and curriculum experts to address the weakness.

If both Palm Beach and Miami-Dade duplicated their gains next year, Miami-Dade would have caught up and would share the title of best-performing among the big districts.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

UPDATE: Owner accused of elderly abuse at assisted living home near West Palm
UPDATE: Owner accused of elderly abuse at assisted living home near West Palm

The owner of an assisted living facility  in a suburban West Palm Beach neighborhood was arrested and accused of mistreating the elderly residents, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.  A judge ordered Bhoodram Parsaram, 52, be held at the county jail on a $2,000 bond Saturday morning on charges of abuse of an elderly...
Trump in Palm Beach: President to pardon boxer? Melania at Barbara Bush funeral
Trump in Palm Beach: President to pardon boxer? Melania at Barbara Bush funeral

UPDATE 6 p.m.: Prodded by actor Sylvester Stallone, President Trump says he’s considering a posthumous pardon for boxing's first black heavyweight champion more than 100 years after he was convicted by all-white jury of accompanying a white woman across state lines. Trump tweeted this afternoon from Mar-a-Lago that “I am considering...
Prosecutors: Stuart men exploited teen runaway for sex, pornography

Last September, a report of a 16-year-old runaway led police to two Stuart men who had distributed explicit images and sex videos involving the teenager. On Friday, Richard William Lockley, 34, was sentenced by a to 15 years in prison by a Miami federal judge. He was ordered to register as a sex offender. A co-defendant — Joshua Lane Rogers,...
UPDATE: Woman critically injured in motorcycle crash on Turnpike near Gardens-Jupiter 
UPDATE: Woman critically injured in motorcycle crash on Turnpike near Gardens-Jupiter 

Florida Highway Patrol troopers have identified a man and woman injured in a motorcycle accident on the Turnpike lanes between Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens on Saturday morning.  Courtney Dzikowski, 26, of Spring Hill, Fla., was a passenger on a 2000 Yamaha motorcycle driven by 27-year-old Joshua Labbe, of Connecticut, when the crash occurred...
NEW: Fort Pierce man dies in drive-by shooting in Vero Beach-area neighborhood
NEW: Fort Pierce man dies in drive-by shooting in Vero Beach-area neighborhood

A man from Fort Pierce died in a drive by shooting near Vero Beach on Friday afternoon, according to Indian River County Sheriff’s Office deputies.  Christard Hicks, 19, suffered a gunshot wound and died about 40 minutes after he arrived to a local hospital, deputies said.  Witnesses told deputies that they saw a black Chrysler sedan...
More Stories