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. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  2. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  3. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  4. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence

    National

    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …

  5. Photo gallery: 20 mugshots of pro athletes arrested in Florida - 1994 to 2017

    News

    In light of today's arrest of Tiger Woods in Jupiter, Florida on DUI charges, here are 20 booking mugs of professional athletes who have been arrested in Florida, from 1994 (Jennifer …

    Desmond Bryant - 2005 - Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant was arrested in Miami on charges of criminal mischief after allegedly "going to a neighbor's house inebriated and causing a commotion."