The four frauds of school grades, part 1: Comparing magnet and charter schools to each other — not zoned default schools

Here is a link to the Florida DoE’s 38-page technical manual for calculating a school grade. Take a look and see how long you can keep your eyes open. Within this guide, we see the first two frauds that define the Florida school grading system.

  1. It’s farcical to think that anyone in the public, at all, has any idea what makes his or her community’s schools an A or F. I once heard someone say: “complexity is fraud.” I certainly agree with that when it comes to representing human interactions through tortured numbers for the purposes of easy branding and collective punishment.
  2. In truth, this guide doesn’t even tell you how to calculate a school grade. It tells you how to calculate a score. Depending on your age-type of school, you pile up points based on various, mostly testing-related outcomes and “coefficients.” See below for an example. You can click to enlarge; but it won’t help.

I don’t have any idea either. \_(ツ)_/¯

Extrapolating backward from McKeel Academy of Technology’s 796 school grade points, I think the top number of points available for a high school is 1105.5. But I’m happy for DoE to correct me. You compare McKeel’s point total — 796 — to the maximum — 1105.5 — to get 72 percent of possible points. That’s pretty high. DoE really should just stop there. Your school gets a score, a hard number that defines it.

But no. Instead, your state government drops that hard number — so meticulously crafted with coefficients and slopes and whatever else — into a completely arbitrary and meaningless grade label range. And that’s what is reported to the public. See below. Click to enlarge.

As you look at that range, ask yourself: why does 62 percent get a school an A, when 62 percent gets an individual kid a D or F? [Grades for kids have gotten pretty tortured and fraudulent, too. But that’s for a different article.] If A to F is supposed to mimic the common individual child grade system, then why doesn’t it mimic the common individual child grade system?

The answer is simple: the A to F designation isn’t a grade; it’s a 20-year political branding gimmick hung onto an utterly opaque and tortured scoreboard system. It’s fraud.

Simply eliminating the meaningless A to F labels and keeping the overall score would diminish human stigma without even harming the “accountability” nonsense of the scoreboard that A to F advocates tout. It would be so so so easy to do. The fact that “choice” advocates and legislators have refused to do even that for a generation tells you much about them: both as people and serious guardians of education policy.

Ranking and sorting schools by score, not by meaningless gimmick grade, provides a much clearer picture of what the bad accountability system purports to show. I’m not saying I agree with it; but at least it’s not trying to obfuscate its own findings.

The third fraud: grading choice on a curve — and hiding scores within “grades”

And that brings us to the third crucial fraud — and the focus of this first article.

The grading system assumes all schools have the same mission, enrollment criteria, and legal obligations. It makes no effort to compare schools with similar circumstances to each other. Magnet and charter schools, which have no legal obligation to their geographic communities, are graded in exactly the same way as zoned schools that have rigid legal obligation to their geographic communities under compulsory education laws.

In Polk County, that means we have a layer of magnet and charter schools that don’t have to take or serve or keep at any scale children with learning disabilities, other ESE needs, or persistent behavioral problems. It also means, because of compulsory education laws, we have a larger layer of schools that must and do serve children with learning disabilities, other ESE needs, or persistent behavioral problems. [Yes, I know that service at zoned schools is not absolute either. But the scale of service is far far far greater. Again, a topic for a different article.] 

For people not familiar with Polk’s history, here’s brief account of how that two-layer structure came about. To combat segregation of black students, under court order, the Polk district in the early 90s began creating magnet schools to lure whiter, wealthier students into schools located within primarily black neighborhoods. It proved so successful that many Polk communities began to demand their own special, self-selected schools. Florida’s conversion charter law allows any zoned public school to “go charter” and eliminate its zoning obligations if parents and staff vote to do so.

Between 1996 and 2004, a number of schools did this — including McKeel, Berkley, Discovery, and finally the Lake Wales schools. It doesn’t happen anymore because teachers generally won’t do it; and there aren’t many wealthy white kids left to concentrate that are not already concentrated. In fact, the last such vote, Lake Wales’ McLaughlin Middle, failed. We’ve all been dealing with the fallout ever since.

In any event, Polk’s two-tier structure was community choice, not an educational one; if we are ever to change it, it will be a community decision.

In truth, there is only one way to make every school like a magnet school or conversion charter school: end compulsory education. That’s the ultimate choice issue, isn’t it? If you want every school to be a magnet or charter, you should end any legal obligation for schools to serve their geographic communities or to serve children with special needs of any kind. That would be the ultimate leveling of the proverbial playing field.

I don’t support that. Do you?

Absent that, for magnet and charter schools, the grade system provides the ultimate curve. It defines them in relation to zoned community schools that have more comprehensive and difficult missions. On top of that, it allows magnet and choice schools to hide their relative scores within the broad overall grade label.

Polk Magnet v. Polk Charter on the scoreboard: interchangeable “achievement,” very different diversity, common community problems

For a very long time, I have wanted to compare Polk’s self-selected enrollment schools to each other on the  fraudulent grade scoreboard. I finally made myself sit down to do it last weekend. I burned up nearly an entire Saturday. And then I burned up another entire Saturday and part of Sunday writing this.

The findings fascinated and fascinate me. They should fascinate you, too, if you put any stock in the school grade scoreboard. I really don’t; but others do. And I still have to live with it as an elected School Board member for now.

See the spreadsheet below. It ranks every self-selected enrollment school by school grade score, not letter grade. Click to enlarge.

[Note: I have excluded the two Polk State College-based charter high schools and Hartridge Academy. I’ll explain why, and provide a few other methodological caveats at the end. You’ll see some minor holes on school demographic/enrollment data, particularly for charters. That data has gotten strangely harder to find, all of a sudden, at either the district or state level. I’ve ended up using demographic data from GreatSchools.com, for now. And that data is comprehensive enough for the conclusions I’m showing you. I will continue to refine, as the district provides the numbers. Frankly, I think neither the state nor the local districts, ours included, like this kind of analysis.]

My top line findings:

Charters score highly with very very white enrollments. District magnets score highly with all enrollments.

Overall, 12 Polk charter schools are As. Seven district magnets are As. Five district magnets are Bs. And four charters are Bs.

District-run Lincoln Academy, which I think is Polk’s longest-standing magnet school, blew everybody away on the scoreboard, with a score of 87, six points better than Lakeland’s charter Magnolia Montessori. Lincoln’s enrollment is roughly 51 percent white, 25 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Asian.

The next nine schools on the scoreboard all come from an established charter system — either the Lakeland Montessori charter system, the Berkley charter system in Auburndale, or the McKeel charter system in Lakeland. And they are very, very, very white.

The least white of these nine charter schools are Magnolia Montessori and Berkley’s Pre-Collegiate High School for 9-10th grade with 60 and 59 percent white enrollment, respectively. [DoE says Magnolia has zero (with a “z”) economically disadvantaged students. But I don’t trust economically disadvantaged numbers anymore, for various reasons. I don’t actually think MM has zero economically disadvantaged kids, so I’m not leaning on that measure.] The most white is Berkley Elementary at 77 percent.

Berkley’s Pre-Collegiate charter high school has 4 percent black students. Four. I give Pre-Collegiate a lot of credit for displaying its demographics prominently on its website and comparing it to Auburndale’s population as a whole. Almost no other schools, district or otherwise, do that. All self-selected enrollment schools should, in my opinion. See below. Click to enlarge.

There is no district magnet school — none — with an enrollment profile anything like the Berkleys or McKeel. Union Academy in Bartow is the closest; but it’s not that close. That’s just a simple fact.

Overall, a very clear difference emerges in enrollment demographics within Polk’s self-selected enrollment schools. Charter schools in Polk County serve more than 10,000 kids and are roughly 60 percent white, 28 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black.

By contrast, district-run magnet schools serve a little less than 8,000 kids, who are roughly: 43 percent white, 30 percent Hispanic, 27 percent black. 

In comparable enrollment profiles, district magnets score consistently higher

After the top 10, the school grade scores of A, B, and C-rated magnet and charter schools — of self-selected enrollment schools as a whole — appear interchangeable. The scoreboard reveals no further obvious charter versus magnet “achievement” pattern.

Based on pure scoreboard “achievement,” it doesn’t seem to matter who runs a self-selected school, beyond the principal level. It certainly doesn’t matter if they’re unionized or not. District schools are; charter schools are not.

But look a little closer.

Again, I stipulate that the charter numbers might tip a point or two in either direction (not sure which) as I get harder demographic information. But it’s clear, again and again, when you look at comparable enrollments, that district-run magnets are producing the same or better school grade scoreboard outcomes with double the rate of black enrollment and significantly lower rate of white enrollment. Interestingly, Hispanic enrollment is about the same for charters and magnets. The distinctions between charters and magnets are primarily black and white in Polk.

Only one of the 12 charter school A’s — Ridgeview Global — had a white enrollment under 54 percent.  By contrast, six of seven district-run “A” magnets had less than 54 percent white enrollment: Lincoln, Davenport School of the Arts, Brigham (Winter Haven), Lawton Chiles Middle (Lakeland), Dundee Ridge Middle, and Winston Academy (Lakeland).

I have been fond of saying, a little bit pompously, that I see no distinction between the self-selection of magnets and charters. I was wrong. Yes, both are self-selecting. But there are fundamental differences, too.

And I should add that it’s my perception that district-run magnets have significantly reduced the student churn in recent years. It’s my perception that you are much more likely to be run out of a charter school than a district magnet once you are in it. However, I don’t have comprehensive data to back that up. So it’s just my semi-informed observation.

When a tie isn’t a tie: Dale Fair Babson Park vs Winston Academy of Technology

Here’s a good object lesson for district success with more diverse populations, where I have clear data.  It comes from comparing Dale Fair Babson Park Elementary, which is Lake Wales Charter’s “A”-rated elementary, to the district’s “A”-rated Winston Academy of Engineering in northwest Lakeland. See screen shot below. Click to enlarge.

Winston and Babson Park put up an identical 62 on the grade scoreboard. Neither has a compulsory education requirement. Both are self-selected enrollments. But look at the difference:

Winston serves 70 more kids. It is 32 percent white. Babson Park is 66 percent white. If you extrapolate percentage to enrollment, Winston is serving 176 black children, while Babson Park serves 47. Winston also has a much larger Hispanic population. Florida’s DoE says Winston’s economically disadvantaged population is 76 percent, while Babson Park’s is 69. But I’m very skeptical of the precision of economic/class data for schools today, so I take those numbers with big grain of salt.

As a father, I want my children in schools that look like the American future, including class as well as racial differences. That’s much more Winston than Babson Park. I would likely choose Winston over Babson Park, if forced to choose a choice school, based only on that. But the scoreboard, if you believe it, says I need not worry about “achievement gaps” either.

What stands out at the individual school level?

If the scoreboard is important to you, here are some additional notable observations from this year’s outcomes:

— Along with UnionLincoln is probably our whitest and wealthiest magnet school; and it’s located in the middle of an historically black neighborhood in Lakeland. That juxtaposition has been an issue for a long time. But it is up to 25 percent black enrollment now, which I believe is quite a bit higher than a few years ago. Giving the surrounding neighborhood greater access to Lincoln has been priority for the superintendent, Board Member Kay Fields, myself, and the city of Lakeland. And I think you’re starting to see some results. Principal Evelyn Hollen and her staff have always produced sterling numbers on the scoreboard. That’s never been in question. And I trust that diversifying Lincoln further will do nothing to diminish its performance.

Lakeland High, a compulsory ed./choice hybrid, is the highest scoring 9-12 grade high school in Polk, That includes charter Lake Wales High, which is quite good, in my opinion.

LHS was one point away from an A. And it’s up nine points since 2017. Only Lakeland’s charter McKeel Academy of Technology scored higher. But McKeel is a 6-12 and has no compulsory education requirement; so it’s not really apples-to-apples. By that same token, people can rightly point out that LHS includes Harrison School of the Arts, an audition-based arts high school which acts as a kind of elite magnet within LHS. But most other Polk high schools, including Lake Wales High, have some element of this, too, with IB programs or other elitish school-within-school models.

Full disclosure: my son attends Lakeland High, not Harrison. Do I think LHS is the highest achieving high school in the county based on his experience? \_(ツ)_/¯

Do I know what is driving the increased score: the choice-y Harrison side or the regular zoned LHS side? Nope. I don’t.

But I do know this. The compulsory education LHS music department has been utterly life-changing (for the better) for one of my son’s closest friends, if that counts for anything. And I know that the Harrison kids and the Lakeland High kids take academic classes from the same teachers.

Rochelle School of the Arts is right at 50 percent black enrollment. It is a very different type of magnet school than Lincoln, which is located not far away. It is serving more of the neighborhood that surrounds it. And it’s doing quite well on the scoreboard. It’s a 60, only two points away from an A. Rochelle has, by far, the highest percentage of black children of any Polk County school with a self-selected enrollment. There is no charter school that looks anything remotely like it. I have to do more analysis; but that may apply for all schools in Polk, of any kind.

I’m focused on black enrollment in a number of these schools because racial desegregation was the original purpose for creating most of them, as I discussed before.

Over time, that purpose evolved until I’m not sure if we actually know the purpose of them anymore. We should probably name them something other than “magnets,” because that’s not really what they are. But they seem to be functioning well, as schools, at whatever it is we want them to do. But they come with serious wider consequences.

— The lowest scoring choice school is Lake Alfred’s charter Discovery High School, with a “C” score of 43. There are 60 district-run zoned schools — 60 — that scored as well or higher on the school grade scoreboard as self-selected Discovery High School. This does not surprise me. I don’t think very much of the Discovery charter system. During the 2017-18 school year, Discovery Middle got rid of 60 kids, including a large chunk of its black population. And it’s still a middling B at 55.

Discovery Middle is at the heart of one of the dark novelties of the choice/charter/turnaround dance in Polk County. Discovery Middle sits literally next door to Lake Alfred Polytech, one of Polk’s two newest magnet schools. Previously, it had been Lake Alfred Addair Middle, one of the zoned schools most under the gun in the state’s “turnaround” torture plan.

In many ways, that turnaround torture was a response to Cara Fitzpatrick’s famous, Pulitzer-winning “Failure Factories” reporting from Pinellas County. The actual reporting, not the tagline, was about segregation, a fact that every policymaker and craven, opportunistic corporate “choice” advocate completely ignored.

The former Lake Alfred Addair, as a default zoned school, had to absorb the kids Discovery dumped on it as well as anyone else zoned for it. The district’s answer to this, which I voted against, was to make Lake Alfred Addair into Lake Alfred Polytechnic Academy and end its default school status. In fairness to staff and the rest of the board, I’m not entirely sure what else could have been done to chase Tallahassee out of Lake Alfred Poly’s life as a “failure factory.”

Since then, the school grade score is up from a 34 D to a 50 C. It’s doing that with an enrollment that is 27 percent white, 31 percent black and 38 percent Hispanic. The scoreboard says LAPA is a success story, with a very focused polytechnic program. And its people are fiercely devoted to it. I would certainly choose it over Discovery.

But now, at the same time, the tiny town of Lake Alfred has two middle schools, which sit literally next to each other, which score about the same on the grade scale. Neither school is the default school for any child in Lake Alfred.

There are so many dark-side-of-choice stories like this.

Phillip O’Brien Elementary in Lakeland received 160 new kids from Combee Elementary when Combee became a magnet in that same plan that I voted against. And POB dropped from C to D, to get on the state’s turnaround radar. But it’s miracle it only dropped that much — and a testament to the leadership of just retired principal Merri Crawford and her staff.

POB’s zone, which was my younger children’s default zone, and which both attended, now extends 10 miles away to Florida Poly on the farthest northeast edge of the Lakeland metro area. It has kindergartners on the bus for 40 minutes each way each day. Its lunchroom could not handle the influx and is chronically overcrowded. See the zone below, outlined in red. There’s a little triangle of school dots at the extreme southwest corner. The top dot of that triangle is Phillip O’Brien.

And for all magnet school Winston’s success, we have drawn a moat around it.

There are 55 neighborhood kids who can basically see Winston that we bus more than 10 miles north to Socrum Elementary. See the image below. The little yellow moat at the bottom is the “zone” that we transport north to the big swath of yellow at the top, which is the Socrum zone.

I’ll be exploring some of these “Tales from the Underbelly of Choice” in a subsequent part. More importantly, I’ll suggest a way to begin addressing it.

— I’ve also focused pretty heavily on Lakeland because that’s where much of the choice action is in Polk. There’s much less of it in the Winter Haven area. I’ll be taking a deep dive on Lakeland, specifically the one-time flirtation with a Lake Wales style charter model, in part 2 of this series.

Because if you put any stock in the actual scoreboard and look beyond the fraudulent grade labels, Lakeland, as a community, has a pretty powerful school story to tell.

The Lakeland metro area has 10 of the top 2o highest scoring magnet or charter schools in Polk. More impressive to me, it has nine of Polk’s top 10 highest scoring zoned schools. In order, the zoned schools are: Valleyview Elementary, Highland City Elementary, Cleveland Court Elementary, Lakeland High, Medulla Elementary, Southwest Elementary, Highlands Grove Elementary, Wendell Watson Elementary, and George Jenkins High.

Zoned, default school Vallyview scored a 75, tops for a Polk zoned school. That ties it with charter Berkley Elementary School, which has no legal obligations to its community or children with special needs, for sixth place overall on the scoreboard. Berkley has a self-selected enrollment that 77 percent white. By contrast, even in South Lakeland, zoned Valleyview is 56 percent white.

Which schools would Billy pick if forced to choose?

If I had to start over today, with a would-be kindergartner, which Polk schools would I pick based on what I think this data tells me?

For charters, I would pick one of the Lakeland Montessori Schools for elementary because I like the method (we already did that a few years back, discussion to come); Ridgeview Global Studies for middle (I’ve always heard great things about Ralph Frier, the principal, as a bonus); and Lake Wales High (another very good principal leader, Donna Dunson) for high school.

For district-run magnets, I’d go Winston, Rochelle, and then, honestly, no idea for high school. There aren’t really magnet high schools; and we’d probably just do our zone, like we have for LHS. That’s working out fine. I’d have no hesitation with most of our high schools. There is one exception, which regular readers can guess, and which I do not want to belabor. It is not the kids’ or staff’s fault. I do have a partiality for the diverse military culture of Bartow High’s Summerlin, which is sort of a magnet. Summerlin’s Sophomore Dining Out is probably the best event any high school does. And I like Lake Gibson a lot. I think it’s very underrated. Ryan Vann is one of our better high school principals.

And what would I pick overall, including zoned schools, based on what the scoreboard says?

I think I’d take Medulla as the elementary school. It’s a zoned school, with an ESE concentration, serving a pretty working class and very diverse community. It was up 13 points on the scoreboard this year. It’s two points away from an A.

And that was with a damn near existential crisis related to the difficulties of addressing “bullying” once a private, ambiguous story goes very very bitter and very very virally public. I think one could argue, based on the scoreboard, that Medulla performed better than any other Polk school under enormous late-year, testing-season disruption. Kudos to principal Myra Richardson and her staff for working through a painful situation and coming out the other side. Then I’d take Rochelle again. And in high school, it would depend on what my child preferred and wanted to do.

The fourth fraud

But my family has never picked schools on paper or based on abstract data.

My three kids have attended all type of schools — magnet, charter, zoned, and even homeschool for a year. I respect everybody’s choice because I respect my own. And my family had many, many different reasons for making them over the years. None of them were tied to a school grade. I am not anti-choice; I am anti-fraud, stigma, and negative marketing. And I am anti self-congratulatory bullshit.

My older two kids are long out of school. My youngest son spent most of his school life in that very white Lakeland Montessori Charter system. We were, quite frankly, test prep refugees who bought our way into the Montessori pre-K so we wouldn’t have to worry about test-and-punish.

Without the Florida Model’s “incentives,” I doubt very much we would have ever left a zoned school. But like so many other school grade-era “leadership class” folks in our community, we “led” by opting-out of the schools most of our community attends — and by forgetting to pay attention to anything else.

I think the Montessori elementaries and middle were always A’s for us.  The experience was good, with lasting friends made. I really have nothing but pleasant memories for most of it. But for various reasons, it came time after 7th grade for our son to leave the very small Montessori universe and attend big, zoned, majority minority, working class, D-rated Crystal Lake Middle.

And that brings us to the fourth fraud of the school grade scoreboard system.

When I say that my son’s experience, socially and academically, at D-rated Crystal Lake was just as good and perhaps better in multiple ways than at A-rated Lakeland Montessori, the school grade does not believe me.

Or more accurately, I think, it just doesn’t care.

I am not worthy of the state’s trust. It must punish my child’s school and teachers on my behalf. My own perceptions as a parent are irrelevant to the school grade’s numbers and purpose and vengeance. And if it doesn’t care about me or my judgments — white male, high skill, high wage knowledge worker in one life and elected official in the other — who does it care about?

The school grade system believed me a good parent when my son was in an A-rated charter or magnet schools. As I’ve said many times, that changed when we chose to go to a D-rated middle school. Kelli Stargel and Jeb Bush and Doug Tuthill and Manny Diaz and Richard Corcoran and all the Florida Model minions immediately assumed I was trapped and helpless and without agency or reason. They say it all the time. Listen to them. The Board of Education made it very clear to me when I tried to talk to it in 2016.

The 2019 remix with BoE last week was very different. More to come on that in a later article. But, despite hints of encouragement from the BoE, I have no reason to believe they would think any differently now when I tell you the actual choices I would make, regardless of what the BS scoreboard says on paper.

Dixieland, Crystal Lake, and Kathleen

So here goes: For elementary school, I’d pick Dixieland, an incredibly diverse neighborhood school that tipped slightly into “D” status this year. I know many of the staff and teachers there. And I love them. I know what they give of themselves.

I’ve judged the Tropicana speech contest for fifth graders there the last three years. The speeches are increasingly better written and delivered; the subject matter is incredibly brave and personal and a cross section of modern American experience. And the kids in the assembly have behaved increasingly well. They’re always, always deeply supportive of the vulnerability their classmates show them on stage. I’d urge anyone who wants to have an opinion about Dixieland’s school grade to attend the speech contest with me next year. You will see real world evidence of meaningful human development.

Each year, looking at a truly integrated picture of American kids pouring themselves out to friends, I’ve found myself wishing my son had gone to school at Dixieland. It’s almost a neighborhood school for me. It might be the closest elementary to my house. It was a missed opportunity.

And, again, lest you doubt that the state rejects my judgment as a parent, I’ve just been informed that all sorts of state-level punishments are about to rain down on Dixieland’s people as collective punishment for existing. That’s a travesty; and it’s anti-choice. As a parent, it takes away the choice to work with dedicated professionals not being harassed by distant educrat grifters. In practicality, it’s likely to chase away the dedicated teachers and staff that led me to choose the school in the first place.

For middle school, there’s no reason not to go back to Crystal Lake, now a “C”. But this time I’d make sure music/band was part of it. There’s a strong program there that we missed out on by not coming in sooner.

My son’s assistant principal at Crystal Lake, Johnnie Jackson, is now the principal of Kathleen High. Mr. Jackson had a big hand in making my son’s Crystal Lake experience as positive as it was. He’s doing a good job at Kathleen, according to the word of mouth I hear and the scoreboard. Kathleen is up 9 points on the scoreboard to a 45/C. That’s a higher score than charter Discovery High School. So maybe, all things being equal, we’d choose Kathleen, especially if my child was into video production. Teacher Andrew Gash’s program at Kathleen is second to none. It’s truly outstanding, which is why Kathleen cleans up every year at the District video awards.

Understand, all of these human reasons are at least as valid for choosing a school as anything on that fraudulent scoreboard. Wanting to attend a school that is close to you is a valid choice that should be respected. All choices should be respected; all children valued; all adults willing to suffer to serve children honored.

We can do so much better than what we’ve accepted. It’s far past time to demand it.

Methodological notes: Although you should, you will not find anything like the report I put together anywhere on DoE’s website. The annual fraudulent school grade release provides historical grade labels for schools, but not the much more relevant overall score history. So I am eternally grateful to a data cruncher who put together a 3-year score report from DoE archives to analyze the effect of changes to Florida’s horrible “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus scam. See the sheet here. It is the basis of my analysis. 

From that 3-year analysis, I pulled enrollment and demographic data primarily from Greatschools.com because I couldn’t find it anymore on our own website or DoE’s. I have a standing request for the district to verify the Greatschools.com data. DoE’s school grade release does have a demographic column, titled: “Percent of Minority Students”. That will tell you white and non-white populations. But as you can see, much of Polk’s current two-tier structure emerged from efforts to desegregate schools with heavy black student enrollments. So white and non-white isn’t good or precise enough. Also, as our Hispanic and ELL population has surged, it’s important to keep track of that, too. [And yes, Hispanic as a racial group (as opposed to language group) isn’t really a thing; but it is in how schools measure demographic enrollment. But the complexities and race and ethnicity always mean we’re always speaking in broad terms.] Because of our diversity, Polk needs to be able to distinguish broad populations that we call white, black, Hispanic, and Asian to ensure equity.

Overall, between GreatSchools and DoE data, I’m very confident in the white enrollment percentages. There are a handful of schools — charter and magnet — where the breakdown of non-white populations is iffier. Those are the holes I’m trying to fill.

I’ve excluded the two very very high scoring Polk State College-affiliated high school charters because they aren’t really standalone schools in the same way the other schools are. They are more like programs — like the Cambridge program at Winter Haven, for instance. If you’re in one of those programs, you’re getting an excellent academic experience. But I don’t think they belong on this list as standalone schools. And I don’t know what is going on with Hartridge Academy. The data looks weird. I think it’s a charter. I might add it in if I get a better handle on its enrollment and structure.

One comment

  1. Shannon Dempster

    Thank you Billy! I love my students so it’s nice to be validated in your article because they are all A students to me. You need to check out Dixieland’s Code Club. We went to Apple last year and they coded robots in 5 minutes because they had coded all year. Amazing kids! We are hoping to get a grant to add those robots to Code Club this year. Wish us luck.