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MCCS under new “turnaround plan”

Selina Iglesias

Greene Publishing, Inc.

In order to help low-performing schools, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) provides resources to local educational agencies to give extra services to Florida's persistently lowest-performing schools that demonstrate need, such as the School Improvement Grants (SIG).

Two years ago, a total of $3 million was given to the Madison County School District to give extra support, increase foundational skills and improve the quality of teaching for Madison County Central School (MCCS), a consistent low-performing school within the district. Each year, $1 million will be used.

In terms of the FDOE, what is categorized as low-performing schools?

This is divided into three tiers:

For Tier I schools, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) analyzed the following indicators from all Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring to identify its persistently lowest-performing schools:

The proficiency rates of all students in grades 3-10 over the last seven years in reading, mathematics, and the combination of both;

The number of years schools missed AYP since 2002-03, and thus, have not made progress; and

The Federal Uniform Graduation Rate since 2002-03.

Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that were selected for Tier I currently demonstrate the lowest proficiency rates in reading and mathematics with all students included and have demonstrated the lowest proficiency rates in reading and mathematics. The schools selected also currently demonstrate and have demonstrated the lowest proficiency rates in reading and mathematics combined for all students.

The FDOE’s Tier II list consists of Title I-eligible secondary schools that demonstrate the lowest proficiency rates in reading and mathematics, with all students included and have demonstrated the lowest proficiency rates in reading and mathematics.  Tier II schools, which are Title I-eligible secondary schools, also demonstrate and have demonstrated the lowest proficiency rates when reading and mathematics are combined for all students.

MCCS is classified as a Tier III school; Tier III schools include all Title I schools that are identified for improvement, corrective action or restructuring and that are not included in the list of Tier I schools. There are different developed criteria for awarding SIG funds to Tier III schools, including commitment to implementing one of the intervention models, schools in greatest academic need and a school's improvement status under ESEA and more.

In attempts to get the school out of its cycle, the FDOE provided this funding through SIG for three years; however, now that the district is in its fourth year with the SIG program, the FDOE informed the district that changes needed to be made in order to continue to receive funding.

These changes are being implemented through what the FDOE calls the “turnaround plan,” which focuses on completely transforming the low performing school by making several changes, including: replacing the principal of the school, replacing 50 percent of the staff, measuring the effectiveness of the school's teachers and creating a new structure for the school and more.

Before implementing the turnaround plan, the FDOE examines several questions:

Was the principal of the persistently lowest-performing school replaced in the last two years?

If yes, does the principal meet the criteria for retention?

If no, were at least 50 percent of the staff replaced in the last two years?

Since the answers to all of these questions were “no,” the FDOE made its decision to establish the turnaround plan and present the requested changes to the district.

One of the changes the FDOE wanted to occur was a shift in leadership. To the district, that meant replacing former MCCS principal, Dr. Willie Miles with new principal, David Chambers. In addition, the state requested that the district hire a continuous improvement director (CID) to monitor the progress of the SIG grant throughout the year and report back to the state with the results. Finally, the district also hired Shirley Joseph as a “turnaround leader” for the district. Together, Chambers, Joseph and the CID will work in unison to improve MCCS.

Hopefully, SIG will provide help for MCCS while improving the quality of the school and increasing student achievement.

“Madison County Central School is critical, because it is [the district's] only middle school outside of Madison Creative Arts Academy,” said Superintendent Doug Brown. “It is extremely important to get SIG improvements.”

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