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Escambia schools improve

By By Chuck Bodiford Publisher
Last week the Alabama Department of Education made available to the public, state report cards. These report cards are used to determine the strengths and weaknesses of our area schools, by grading the schools in a variety of different areas. These report cards when compared to last year show improvement in Escambia County schools.
Following are a couple of categories that were assigned letter grades and what these categories mean to the students. In career/technical training, the district received an "A", which is the same as it received last year. These programs form partnerships with business and industry to align curriculum with the business standards. The percentage of students who completed a career/technical program and took a job in a related field or enrolled in post-secondary studies was ahead of the state level by 2.7%
In Stanford Achievement Testing, Escambia County received a "B-", again this was the grade received in this category last year. The national average for the Stanford Achievement Test is 50; the average received by all students in our system was 43.0. This test is administered to children in grades three through eight to measure their academic performance.
The category with the biggest difference when compared to last year is the graduation exam. In this category the district raised its grade by two letter grades, from a "D" to a "B." Students must pass this exam in order to graduate and earn a regular diploma. The percent of the district which passed was 92.3%; the percentage of the state that passed was 92.5%, only a difference of 0.2%.
The dropout rate in the county received a higher grade which means fewer dropouts are expected prior to graduation in 2005. The district went from a "C" to a "C+."
In the ACT test, a test taking by most students who plan on attending college, Escambia County sustained the year's previous grade, receiving a "C-." The Southeastern average is 20.0 and the national average is 20.8. The average score for Escambia County was 19.3.
One area of concern on the report card is the "D" that the district received in the category of Mills Equivalent. Mills Equivalent is the total amount of revenue collected locally for public school purposes, divided by the value of one regular system mill of ad valorem tax. Our school system averaged 22.45 compared to the state average of 31.59 mills equivalent. With the increase to the Ad Valorem tax passed last December, it is expected that next year this grade will drastically improve.
Escambia County Superintendent of Schools, Melvin "Buck" Powell, had the following to say concerning the report cards. "We are fairly pleased with the results. They (the grades) are better than last years; however, there is always room for improvement. A couple of areas having major improvements over last year were in fifth and sixth grade writing and the graduation exam. We were rated excellent in Safety and Discipline.
In the tax category we were scored a "D", however, I feel that in October we should jump to approximately a "B", because of the increase to the Ad Valorem tax. We are headed in the right direction and will continue to work hard. Hopefully next year's results will be even better."
Complete scores for individual schools are available at http://www.alsde.edu/html/home.asp by clicking the link in red text labeled, "2002-2003 Report Cards."