published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Lake Country grade bumped to an 'A'
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
LAKE PLACID -- Highlands County now has three 'A' schools. The state board of education has announced it raised Lake County Elementary from a 'B' to the 'A'.
This is because a component of the formula used in measuring student learning growth had been omitted in some of the calculations. Students who had not done well last year, but improved this year, were not given the full credit they deserved. Factored in, the adjusted scores increased the school's overall grade.
The main point is not so much the actual grade. This year's student and school scores have been compromised by the effects of a more difficult Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, raised standards for grade level skills, and the state's attempt to counter balance the resulting drop in scores across the state.
What is praise worthy is Lake Country's advance of four grade levels in one school year.
To improve from barely functional to highly effective in such a short time is nothing short of amazing, said Joyce McClelland, the school district's director of elementary education.
"Certainly they have worked really, really hard," McClelland said. "They were devastated to receive a 'D' last year, but they began work immediately, starting in the summer, and were always very positive. I saw them approach the situation with a 'What can I do?' attitude. They worked together -- driven and committed to make a difference.
Dr. Judy Dyer, Lake Country's principal, said "We're really tickled. We were happy with a 'B', an 'A' is icing on the cake."
Asked how the school had been so successful with all of its students, from the gifted to the remedial, Dyer mentioned several things.
Retired principal Marjel Bauer created a solid foundation, Dyer said. The culture of teamwork was already in place and collaboration common.
The school district was also responsive and supportive Dyer said. Administrators found ways to fulfill the school's needs. School-day and after-school tutoring were made available.
Dyer, however, gives the greatest credit -- after hard work -- to the new teacher and administrator evaluation systems.
"It was daunting at first," Dyer said, "a huge project." But, she said, it made all the difference.
"Highlands County has been a leader in developing an evaluation program," Dyer added. "There is a finely defined rubric of what a highly effective teacher looks like. (The entire faculty) took to it. There were no objections, everyone wanted to be a highly effective teacher, integrating new strategies into their classrooms.
"The new evaluation system has been the elephant in the room," Dyer said. "It turned out for us to be a very friendly elephant."
McClelland, independently, confirmed Dyer's appraisal. The entire faculty joined in the spirit of the improving performance.
The system's classroom observations and feedback format were used to promote collaboration and enhance experience. Professional development has a high priority.
"They went over and above," McClelland said. "I spent a day shadowing Erica Ashley, the assistant principal, and watched her helping teachers implement new ideas."
McClelland was speaking early Tuesday morning. She had not yet had an opportunity to speak with Dyer or Ashley (who is a first year administrator).
"I'm tracking them down," she said, "and we're going to celebrate."
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