Polk County Public Schools: Turnaround Schools Information

Polk County Public Schools: Turnaround Schools Information

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As of Feb. 20, 2018, Polk County Public Schools has six schools in Year 2 of the turnaround process. Each of these schools have received a grade of D or F for more than two consecutive years. These schools include Bartow Middle, Garner Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Polytech Academy, and Lake Marion Creek Middle.

These schools are subject to a contingency plan that will only go into effect if they do not achieve a grade of C or better after the 2017-18 school year. This plan would be to hire an external operator to manage the schools and achieve gains in the schools’ grades.

Polk County Public Schools has a variety of support structures in place to help our schools undergoing improvement plans.

District staff are visiting these schools frequently to review student performance data, classroom instruction, student discipline, and school leadership. They identify strategies, and seek out available resources, to help the schools in each of these areas.

These schools go to the “front of the line” to get their needs met. For instance, if they need additional staff or support, they get first consideration before other schools not undergoing improvement plans. Polk County Public Schools has also simplified the process to get this support into the schools as quickly as possible.

School-based and district-based instructional coaches are providing additional support to our classroom teachers and students.

Because literacy is crucial for students to perform well in all subject areas, a major focus has also been to improve reading skills for students in these schools as well as all schools districtwide.

The 2017-18 school grades will be released in June 2018. Polk County Public Schools is optimistic that these schools will see their grades improve to a C or better, which will mean an external operator will not be necessary. Regardless, the district will continue to provide resources to help the schools maintain their upward trajectory.

This webpage includes additional information about the school improvement process, Polk County Public Schools’ contingency plan, and how the community can help our low-performing schools. This webpage is intended to provide the most current information to all the schools’ stakeholders, including students, parents, employees and members of the community. Updates will be posted regularly.

Below please find links to official communication on the turnaround schools.
For more information, contact Chief Academic Officer Michael Akes at Michael.akes@polk-fl.net.


Superintendent’s Feb. 20 statement to The Ledger editorial board: 
The state mandated that we develop a contingency plan for these six schools, but make no mistake, my goal is for these schools to make the grade of C or better. Each school is different. Each one faces its own unique challenges, and for some, the road is harder than for others. Regardless, each of these schools absolutely has the ability to move their grade, and we believe they will do it. To help them make the grade, we have deployed numerous forms of support. These include:

  • Additional instructional support.
  • More frequent instructional reviews, which include feedback and action planning for improvement.
  • Additional support from district staff; turnaround schools have received, on average, three times more district support visits since the beginning of the school year through January 2018 than non-turnaround schools.
  • Weekly reviews of staffing needs.
  • Hiring needs at turnaround schools take priority over those at non-turnaround schools.
  • Staff have been instructed that if turnaround schools have a need, they are to expedite the process for obtaining resources to fill that need.
  • Ensuring our data support and formative assessment supports are up-to-date for turnaround schools.
  • Leadership support from Educational Directions, which is already working in the district, and retired principals.
  • Monthly feedback from Educational Directions to superintendent and senior staff about the turnaround schools’ progress.
  • Additional instructional support from Kelly Educational Staffing.
  • Regional superintendents review weekly progress monitoring data with deputy superintendent.
  • Each quarter, the district hosts Community Assessment Team meetings to update stakeholders on the turnaround schools; Community Assessment Teams are comprised of parents, educators, local government and business representatives, and community activists.
  • District has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polk Education Association to provide recruitment and retention bonuses for teachers at the turnaround schools.
  • Some high schools are sending faculty to support faculty and students at turnaround middle schools.
  • Regular data review sessions with turnaround schools to check progress.
  • We continue to add layers of support as we identify needs.

Again, each of our six turnaround schools are making great progress. One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in raising grades is the state’s requirement to remove teachers who had unsatisfactory VAM (value added model) scores. This requirement caused disruption to the staff and students. Nonetheless, we remain undaunted, and we will continue to provide every support we can to the turnaround schools.

Let me stress that I believe each of the six schools listed above can make a grade of C or better, and we are working every day to make that happen. I am thankful for the hard work of the students, teachers, principals, parents and all our supporters who are helping us make the grade, improve these schools and deliver high-quality education to the students of Polk County.


Superintendent’s Feb. 13 Communication to Staff Members Following School Board Work Session

In this communication, Superintendent Byrd updates employees on the school district’s recommendation to the Board that Kentucky-based Education Directions be hired as the external operator to assist the turnaround schools if they cannot achieve a grade of C or better after the 2017-18 school year.

Link to Superintendent’s communication:

Link to presentation made to School Board about external operators: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/di351y2j1k5p3d3/AADCoxds61wK-FgfNUB3qfpQa?dl=0

Link to Educational Directions: http://educational-directions.com/About.html

Link to Board work session containing the external operator discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdS2PpvJvug

Superintendent’s Feb. 8 Letter to Parents, Staff and Community Members
In this communication, Superintendent Byrd clarifies the turnaround process and the school district’s recommendation to hire an external operator if the schools cannot achieve a grade of C or better after the 2017-18 school year.


Link to Florida Statute 1008.33 “Authority to enforce public school improvement”: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=1008.33&URL=1000-1099/1008/Sections/1008.33.html

Community Assessment Team Meetings
The school district hosts Community Assessment Team meetings to update stakeholders on the progress of the turnaround schools. Upcoming meetings include:CAT Meetings image