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Technicality keeps poor school from its reward

A Panhandle school raises its FCAT score two grades, but a school merger keeps it from getting $100 per student.

Associated Press
Published December 21, 2003

CENTURY - One of the state's poorest elementary schools is being denied a $100 per student reward for raising its test scores because of a technicality: It has been merged with a neighboring middle school.

Century Elementary School, where 80 percent of the 250 pupils qualify for free or reduced lunches, posted an F for two years in a row on the state's annual report card but brought its grade up to a C this year.

The state Department of Education, however, refused to grant the monetary award that typically accompanies a grade increase because of a recent merger with Carver Middle School in this Panhandle town on the Florida-Alabama border.

Department officials consider Carver-Century to be a new school with a first-year grade of C and, therefore, no improvement.

The grades are based heavily on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

"We improved massively," principal Russell Queen said. "We were ecstatic, but then we find out that we didn't get recognition for the hard work my teachers have done."

The merger, however, has not canceled a two-year state monitoring period required for schools with two consecutive failing grades.

Queen still must make quarterly progress reports to Gov. Jeb Bush's office and submit to state inspections.

The Escambia County School District has appealed the funding denial, but Sheree Cagel, director of school improvement for the district, said a reversal is unlikely.

The Department of Education had no immediate comment Friday.

If granted, the school would get $25,000 to $30,000 that could be used for educational improvements and teacher bonuses.

"When we thought we were getting the money, we put committees together to get ideas on how to use it," Queen said. "Now there is no reason to."

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