D Grade: Why Did Northview Fall That Low?
June 26, 2009
How did Northview High School’s grade from the Florida Department of Education fall to a D? It is a question that many North Escambia residents have asked, and a question that Northview staff is asking.
Northview was a solid C-rated school from the 1999 to 2007. Then in the 2007-2008 school year, NHS jumped to a B rating, just a handful of points from being an A school. But for this past school year, Northview dropped all the way to that D.
NorthEscambia.com sat down with school officials to ask that question. We were not looking for excuses, and Northview’s administration made none. But we did learn that there is more to the lowest score in the school’s history than meets the eye.
The mathematical formula that the state uses to compute school grades includes a one-letter grade drop if half of the lowest 25% of students in the school fail to make learning gains.
At Northview, 58 percent of the lowest students did make learning gains in math. But in reading, only 34 percent of the lowest performing students made learning gains, slapping the school with the one letter grade penalty. (Click graphic to enlarge report.)
A student is defined as making a learning gain with an improvement in achievement level — for instance an increase in score from a 1 to 2 on the math FCAT; maintaining at level 3,4 or 5; or demonstrating more than one year’s growth within levels 1 or 2.
There are really good teens in that lower quartile, Simpson said. There are those that are below average and learning disabled students. Even former Northview students that may have been removed from the school and sent to an alternative school still count against the NHS score.
Compounding Northview’s problem, Simpson said, is “typical teenagers”. There are those that “Christmas tree” the test — filling in the multiple choice bubbles and then laying down on their desks to take a nap. And, he said, many students have problems focusing on school due to technology — cell phones, Internet, email, television and the list goes on.
Under a provision in the FCAT rules, a student that makes 15 or greater on the ACT is not required to pass the FCAT. So many of those students “Christmas tree” the test too, he said. Even home bound students in the Northview district count toward the school’s FCAT scores.
The problems are not Northview-specific, but tend to statistically impact the score at a smaller, rural school more than a large city school.
He pointed out that Ernest Ward Middle School, where most Northview students attended middle school, is and has been an A school. “These are the same students capable of performing on the FCAT. Some just lost that motivation when they got to high school.”
Simpson stressed again that he was not making excuses for Northview’s D. Rather, he said, he wanted NorthEscambia.com readers to understand that the school scored enough points for a strong C but received the letter grade penalty.
In fact, the school’s total point score used to determine the school grade was the third highest in school history at 469 — well within the 435-494 range for a C. Last year’s B score was earned with 519 points, and in the 2006-2007 school year, the school earned 481 points for a C.
Overall, Northview’s percentages of students meeting high gains in writing and math were higher than the other high schools in Escambia County, including Pensacola High School that has been ranked as one of the nation’s top schools by Newsweek. (Click graphic to see comparison.)
In writing, 90 percent of Northview students met high standards in math, the highest percentage in Escambia County. In math, 77 percent of NHS students met standards, the second highest in the county.
“We know that we are not a D school,” Simpson said. “We are working on a plan, coming up with a plan to make sure we are not ranked as a D school next year.”
When NorthEscambia.com visited Northview earlier this week, a team was assembled to analyze school data and develop that plan.
“We will develop the plan, but we need parental backing and positive community support,” he said. “That is what is going to get us where we need to be.”
“I was very disappointed for the students and teachers,” Northview Principal Gayle Weaver said. “I know the grade was not a true indicator of how we did. But I think it made all of us realize that we can and will do better for next year.”