District officials, union representatives, and teachers all laud the School Improvement Zone. Although the initiative is too new to declare it a success, the early results are very promising.
Created in January 2005, the Zone includes 20 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, and 8 high schools. To take part in the effort, schools had to exhibit at least two of the following three criteria: poor academic performance for at least three years; patterns of low performance among elementary schools feeding low-performing middle and high schools; and signs of ineffective leadership capacity. In other words, the 39 schools selected for the Zone were struggling.
Under Florida’s accountability system, schools are assigned letter grades based on student achievement data from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)—but the grades aren’t based on current achievement alone. Improvements in student achievement, especially among the lowest-performing students, are also taken into account.
As the figure above shows, in the three years before the initiative was implemented (2002 to 2004), the percentage of Zone schools that received a D or an F actually increased. But since entering the Zone in January 2005, the percentage receiving a D or F has dropped dramatically, from nearly 90 percent to just 22 percent. By 2006, nearly 60 percent of Zone schools received a C, while a little over 20 percent earned an A or B.
Here's the Boost That Poor Children, Their Teachers, and Their Schools Really Need
By Antonia Cortese
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How a Virtual District Provides Real Help for Really Struggling Schools
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Zone Schools Are Off to a Strong Start