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    Blanton Elementary appeals F, earns a D

    The St. Petersburg school said dropout prevention program scores should not count.

    By STEPHEN HEGARTY, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 24, 2002

    Blanton Elementary officially shed its label as an F school Friday, when the state announced that the school grade was being bumped up to a D.

    [Times photo: Fred Victorin]
    "I was expecting a C, but so long as we're not an F, we'll be all right," says Blanton principal Deborah Turner.
    The St. Petersburg school was one of 59 statewide that got better grades as a result of appealing to the state Department of Education. Around the state, the appeals resulted in 27 more A-rated schools and four fewer F schools.

    Two other Pinellas County schools appealed the state's decision not to give them grades and came up short, though one is still being reviewed. In Hillsborough County, all 12 grade appeals were turned down. No other schools in the Tampa Bay area filed appeals.

    For Blanton Elementary, the D grade was small relief.

    "I was expecting a C, but so long as we're not an F, we'll be all right," said Blanton principal Deborah Turner. "We knew we weren't an F school. I don't think we're a D school either.

    "As horrible as it was (getting the F grade)," Turner said, "something good will come of it."

    Blanton's appeal focused on its dropout prevention program, which serves 60 students from area schools. The program is on the Blanton campus, but it has its own budget and staff. To be eligible for the program, students must have low test scores. The school argued that those students' scores should not count against Blanton.

    Once those scores were reconsidered, Blanton ended up with more than enough points for a D grade, and actually fell around the midpoint between a D and a C. The previous year, the school earned a C.

    A state education official said Friday that Blanton and the other schools that shed their F grades would not lose out on the state financial help promised to F schools.

    One of the Pinellas grade appeals was for Southern Oak Elementary, which got an incomplete grade because it appeared that not enough students took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It turned out that some tests were missing.

    "The missing tests were found, and now we will have to score them by hand," said Bill Edmonds, spokesman for the Florida Board of Education. "That should happen soon, but I'm not sure when we'll have the results."

    The other Pinellas appeal wasn't for a grade change. The Academie DaVinci charter school just wanted to get a grade. The school didn't get a letter grade because last year the small school of 100 students didn't have enough kids taking the test.

    Academie officials were frustrated Friday because their students did so well on their test scores, they had more than enough points to earn an A grade. That would have earned the school $10,000 in school recognition money.

    "We know we're an A school, but if we don't get the grade, we don't get the money. It's very disappointing," said Academie principal Reina Mora-Blackwelder.

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