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. Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman

    Blogs

    State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home …

    Carlos G. Smith
  2. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  3. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  4. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  5. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.