Florida’s department of education judges schools on an A-F scale. But not all As are created equal. I’m not trying to take anything away from higher-income areas, but it’s not as hard to help rich and middle class kids succeed in school as it is to help students from poor families. And historically, low-income students, along with black and Hispanic students, English learners, and students with disabilities have struggled compared to their white and well-enough-off peers.

It’s a nice accomplishment for every school that gets an A, but the schools getting As while serving students with the highest needs should really get our attention and high praise. I also think we should be studying them to find out what they’re getting right, or at least find out how their students are overcoming such major obstacles.

I wanted to identify these schools. For the sake of simplicity, I defined “high-poverty” as a school with 95-100 percent of its students fitting into the “economically disadvantaged” category. Then I filtered out all but the A schools and ranked them by which schools scored the highest percentage of total possible points. Obviously I could have had a broader definition of “high-poverty,” and I could have expanded it to A and B schools, but I wanted to put a special focus on the best schools who have the biggest challenges.

The Results

In Florida, 66 high-poverty schools scored an A on the 2018 report card. To put that in context, of 1,028 A-rated schools in the state, 66 (6.4 percent) are high-poverty schools. Also, compared to all 999 high-poverty schools in the state, 66 (6.6 percent) got As. If you’re curious, 183 schools from this high-poverty set got Bs, 556 got Cs, 145 got Ds, and 26 got Fs.

All of the A schools deserve to be commended (B schools too), but I wanted to highlight a few of the A schools that stood out above the rest.

St. Peter’s Academy (charter), Indian River

Demographics

100 percent economically disadvantaged

87.1 percent minority

Proficiency Levels:

English Language Arts      86 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Math                                    84 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Science                                76 percent of students are at or above proficiency

91 and 90 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively.

What makes them stand out?

  • Got the highest score (percent-wise) compared to other schools with 95-100 percent economically disadvantaged students
  • Jumped from a C in 2017 to an A this year
  • Highest growth among its lowest-performing students

 

Dr. William A Chapman Elementary, Miami-Dade

Demographics

97.7 percent economically disadvantaged

97.5 percent minority

Proficiency Levels

English Language Arts      70 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Math                                    83 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Science                                77 percent of students are at or above proficiency

67 and 93 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively.

What makes them stand out?

  • Got A grades two years in a row, rising up from a C in 2016.
  • It’s the highest performing non-charter school in the high-poverty group.

 

Greensboro Elementary School, Gadsden

Demographics

100 percent economically disadvantaged

89 percent minority

Proficiency Levels

English Language Arts      44 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Math                                    75 percent of students are at or above proficiency

95 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math.

What makes them stand out?

  • Got A grade after two years at a C
  • Highest percentage among high-poverty rural schools.

 

Keystone Heights Elementary School, Clay

Demographics

100 percent economically disadvantaged

9.1 percent minority

Proficiency Levels:

English Language Arts      67 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Math                                    79 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Science                                80 percent of students are at or above proficiency

54 and 82 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively.

What makes them stand out?

  • Highest performing high-poverty school with mostly white students (90.9 percent white)

 

Crossroad Academy (charter), Gadsden

Demographics

100 percent economically disadvantaged

98.7 percent minority

Proficiency Levels:

English Language Arts      57 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Math                                    64 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Science                                55 percent of students are at or above proficiency

61 and 62 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively.

What makes them stand out?

  • 100 percent graduation rate
  • 100 percent of students scored on an college-credit exam

 

Mater Academy High School of International Studies (charter), Miami-Dade

Demographics

96.2 percent economically disadvantaged

96 percent minority

Proficiency Levels:

English Language Arts      86 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Math                                    76 percent of students are at or above proficiency

77 and 64 percent of students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively.

What makes them stand out?

  • Best high-poverty charter high school

 

Pine Island Elementary School, Miami-Dade

Demographics

96.2 percent economically disadvantaged

35.3 percent minority

Proficiency Levels:

English Language Arts      67 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Math                                    84 percent of students are at or above proficiency

Science                                72 percent of students are at or above proficiency

47 and 63 percent of the lowest-performing students improved their scores over the previous year in reading and math respectively.

What makes them stand out?

  • Longest A-streak – 20 years in a row getting A grades.

The full data set, which was extracted from the Florida Department of Education’s School Grades spreadsheet, can be seen here. It’s also important to note that these ratings are based heavily on test scores which don’t tell us the whole story about a school’s quality. But standardized tests can still shine a useful spotlight and guide us to schools like these that are helping students with the greatest obstacles succeed in school.

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