DOE Stats page and worked out the percentages for us as well as our peer counties. Escambia has a high percentage—but so do other counties-next reason. What about poverty? We have areas of concentrated, generational poverty—this is the reason, right? Not so fast, I went to the U.S. Census Quick facts page here, and as I have illustrated in the above chart-there are other counties with lower per-capita incomes that have better graduation rates. What about demographics-we have a high minority population-so this must be the reason, right? Wrong. This interactive map from the last U.S. Census shows the demographic breakdown of every county in Florida (and in the US—it is an awesome tool) Duval County has a larger minority population than does Escambia, so does Leon. Both of those counties have graduation rates in the 70s (Leon is 77%!) yet Escambia county is stuck in the low 60’s… But we're told our five year rate is better--so I went here and went to the five year graduation rate by race and school, I downloaded the spreadsheet, and did the calculations in excel. Even the five year rate puts us behind our peers in the chart. So what is the reason for this issue? What Gives? I have a hunch that a large part of the reason our numbers are low is that we are socially promoting students into High School –students that have not yet mastered the skills necessary to be successful in High School. We do this for a variety of reasons….We have some middle schoolers that are 2,3, or more years behind—gotta move em’ up. We let students fail multiple classes, then make these courses up on computerized “course recovery” programs that do not instill long-term concept mastery—gotta move ‘em up. Some administrators harbor notions that students promoted to High School may find a coach, teacher, or some other school based “mentor type figure” once promoted to High School to help them be successful—even though there is no way to measure this. Gotta move ‘em up! I have even heard anecdotally that at some middle schools the unwritten yet expected practice is that at-risk students are not permitted to receive ANY grade lower than a 59, gotta move ‘em up. “These students really want to play
freshman football, Mr. Bergosh” --gotta move ‘em up! There is a saying from the 60s that really speaks to the problem we have in Escambia County. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We are stuck on a script,
unable to be creative and unwilling to be bold, terrified to step up and do what other counties around the state and nation are doing---set meaningful standards for admission/promotion to High School! I’ve brought this idea to the Board over, and over, and over—and I run into the same Status Quo, Iron Curtain of NO. I’m like a broken record on this issue….. We did this for the transition from first to second grade—it was a smashing success! Why can’t we, if not for social implications (and we don’t socially promote, right?), do the same thing between 8th and 9th grade? Nope—too difficult, can’t do it…… So instead, we allow middle school students to score the lowest possible, failing score on the all-important state skill assessment tests for reading, writing, mathematics, and science—and then we welcome them to High School—knowing they’re ill-prepared. Why? We allow students to complete Middle School with a straight “D” average, and we promote them to High School even though we know in many cases these same students are ill-prepared for the rigor of High School. Why? And then we wonder why these kids drop out or don’t complete High School in four years? It’s not a mystery-they weren’t ready, they got their one season of eligibility for freshman football, or one season of basketball. Then they struggle, and then they quit! The problem is simple-we are promoting too many that are unprepared, for reasons that are social and not academic. Neither Duval nor Leon County--two schools with higher minority populations than Escambia--allow the middle schoolers to directly matriculate with "D" averages and failing assessment scores. They get it! This practice we have in Escambia County must change-we can't sugar the pill; If you have not mastered the concepts, you should not be moved into High School. Absent a change of course, our rates will not improve, our district letter grade won’t improve, and High Schools like Tate, Northview, Washington, and PHS will continue to be penalized for the lack of progress of the low-performers.
Through our continued inaction on this, we are not doing anyone---- students, parents, taxpayers, or teachers--- any favors. We have met the enemy and he is us. Pogo was right
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.