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F schools emerge from the brink

FCAT scores indicate that three failing elementary schools have improved their grades.

Published May 24, 2006

TAMPA - Hillsborough County's three failing schools had reason to celebrate Tuesday's release of FCAT scores. Signs point to better grades this year.

"We're pretty sure we're not going to have any F schools," school superintendent MaryEllen Elia said. "We're seeing great increases."

She expects more A's and B's - and fewer D's and C's - but nothing's official until the state releases school grades next month.

For now, school officials know that students logged major gains on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test at schools that received F's last year: Edison, Just and Potter elementaries.

"Success is the only option" proved a motivating motto at Just Elementary, which faced the greatest risk of a second failing grade. Now it looks likely to earn a D this year, school officials said.

"We never doubted that we'd be able to pull it off," said principal Tricia McManus. "We actually were hoping for a C, which would have been a huge jump."

Hillsborough tracked state trends in Tuesday's release of FCAT scores for grades four through 10.

The county's fourth-graders mirrored a perplexing statewide plunge in reading scores. The results suggest a problem beyond Hillsborough's fourth-grade classrooms, said John Hilderbrand, district director of assessment and accountability.

"Whatever we did, the state did, too," he said.

Hillsborough's passing rate in reading improved at the other grade levels tested. Seventh-graders saw the biggest gains. Nine percent more are reading on grade level, FCAT results showed, but there's room for improvement with a 59 percent overall pass rate.

In math, third- through seventh-graders made notable gains. But the momentum trailed off at the upper grade levels. Ninth grade pass rates fell 3 percent to 63 percent.

School officials have not yet determined whether the county's low-performing high schools will see improved grades. Armwood, Hillsborough and Middleton high schools earned D's last year.

"The scores at high school are more difficult, and the bar is higher," Elia said.

Letitia Stein can be reached at or 813 226-3400.

[Last modified May 24, 2006, 04:29:51]

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