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State report card hands county schools C' score

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Staff Writer
The Escambia County School System received its report card recently and Superintendent Buck Powell said the system needs to work a little harder to get its grades up.
The report card is handed down by the state and grades each school in the system individually and the system as a whole. Escambia County's grade came back as a "C," which is below the state average of "B."
The state uses a variety of factors to determine the overall grade. While the system, and individual schools, performed well on many aspects of the grading, Powell said there is definite room for improvement.
In order to meet that goal, Powell said there are some obvious places where the school system must improve.
Overall, the Escambia County School System made a B-' on SAT-9 scores. Although this grade is fairly high, Powell said the grades at the high school level brought the overall grade down. While students in the second to eighth grade range made B' or B-' on the SAT-9, the ninth through eleventh grades scored C+' each on the test.
Another aspect of the grading is in writing performance. This grade is based upon annual testing of students in the fifth and seventh grades. The fifth graders of the county scored a C' on the test while seventh graders pulled out a C-'. Next year, this test will include students in the ninth grade as well.
Achievement Ability is another grade giving to the school. This determines the ability of the students of the system and is based on several different tests. The Escambia County system received an overall grade of C+.'
Powell said one of the major concerns for Escambia County is its scoring on the ACT test. The ACT is taken by numerous students planning to continue their education after graduating high school. The system was given a grade of D+' for its average scoring on the ACT.
Powell said one way the system may improve ACT scores is to return to seven-period days instead of the current block schedule.
One of the bright spots on the report card was the system's performance on the graduation exam. In both reading and language, the schools earned a grade of A.'
Another sore spot for the system is the dropout rate where the system was given an overall grade of D.' Powell said this statistic has also been affected by the block schedule as it has increased since the school changed from six-period days to blocks four years ago. The state's projected dropout rate for Escambia County in the year 2003 is 23.6 percent.
Some other areas that determined the overall grade was technology. Powell said the schools did well in this category, but that the state does not give a grade.
Grades are not given for average daily attendance although it does factor into the overall grade of the system. Escambia County is at 95.8 percent in daily attendance, below the state average of 96.3 percent.
Powell said evidence shows that going back to periods would improve this number.
Another bright spot for the system is in its use of portable classrooms. Escambia County is one of the few systems in the state that have completed the state's request to eliminate portable classrooms.
The system also scored well in the teacher's with degrees category. According to Powell, 55.5 percent of the teachers in the system have acquired at least a bachelor's degree; 40.1 has obtained a master's degree and 4.2 percent has six years of education or more.
Safety and discipline also was a high mark for the schools. Powell said last year the school had one weapon-related incident and two drug-related incidents. The school does not receive a grade for the category.
The system received a D' in spending per student. This is determined by the revenues given to the system through taxes.
It seems money per student is low everywhere. The state received a grade of C,' the Southeast earned a C' and the nation scored low with a D.'
The schools also received individual grades. Huxford Elementary in Atmore achieved the highest marks with an overall score of A.' Flomaton Elementary made the second highest score with a grade of B+' and McCall School made a B-.'
Powell said achieving the system's goal of a B-' is obtainable.