Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas 'Transformation Zone' schools showing signs of progress, officials say

A third-grade class at Fairmount Park Elementary, one of eight “Transformation Zone” schools in Pinellas County. A new draft report details signs of progress in the schools as they head into the spring testing season. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times (2015)]

A third-grade class at Fairmount Park Elementary, one of eight “Transformation Zone” schools in Pinellas County. A new draft report details signs of progress in the schools as they head into the spring testing season. [DIRK SHADD | Times (2015)]

At eight of the lowest performing schools in Pinellas County, district officials see promising signs: academic growth, reductions in suspensions and discipline referrals, better teaching and improved attendance.

The question is whether the improvements will translate into stronger academic performance and higher test scores.

"We're seeing continued growth in these schools, which gives us hope," Dan Evans, the district's head of accountability and research, said this week during a community meeting in south St. Petersburg, where six of the eight schools are located. Two other schools are in Clearwater.

The school district created the "Transformation Zone" last year, providing the schools with an influx of resources, including a leadership team to provide training and support, help recruit and train teachers, and oversee improvement efforts.

The district and the teachers union also agreed to increase pay incentives for teachers — up to $25,000 a year for the most experienced teachers who perform extra duties. They also added time to the school day.

District officials also took some employees in January from the Pinellas zone to visit a school-improvement zone in Memphis, which has been credited with improving schools and closing achievement gaps between black and white students.

Goliath Davis, former police chief and deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, said he heard from teachers who came back from the trip feeling like, "It's not the kids. It's our approach to the kids."

He said, "I thought that was very profound because we've talked about that for a very long time."

According to a draft of a midyear evaluation of the zone completed by Evans' office, more than half of teachers surveyed in the schools said the bonus pay motivated them to work in the schools. A similar percentage said it might encourage them to stay.

Five of the eight schools have had fewer than five teachers leave this year. Maximo lost six, while Fairmount Park lost seven and Melrose lost eight, according to the report. Some teachers have been forced to resign.

Most teachers also were happy with the addition of classroom aides.

Discipline referrals and suspensions are down — which could be the result of a combination of factors, such as better student behavior, a change in the attitudes of school employees toward students, and a change in district policy that decreased the total number of days students can be kicked out of school.

"When you have better instruction, tighter instructional model, with less time for kids to be off task, and kids are more in tuned to the lesson, all of that leads to less behavior," Evans said.

Lewis Brinson, the district's new minority achievement officer, said if suspensions and discipline referrals are down then the schools should soon see an increase in academic performance. It can't be that schools stop disciplining students to keep numbers artificially low.

"It does us no good to keep kids in school and not teach them," he said.

Evans gave an overview of his report, which was still being finished, this week to the Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students. The report is a "checkpoint" to assess what's working and what's not working in the zone.

The zone includes: Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose elementary schools, and Midtown Academy, all in St. Petersburg, and Sandy Lane and High Point elementary schools in Clearwater. Not all schools receive the same level of support.

Of the schools, D-rated High Point had the highest performance and growth on internal tests. Melrose, an F school, also had "high levels" of growth in reading and math. Maximo, which jumped to a C last year from an F, has continued to make "impressive" strides, Evans said.

Pinellas 'Transformation Zone' schools showing signs of progress, officials say 03/03/17 [Last modified: Saturday, March 4, 2017 7:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)

    Golf

    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.