Pensacola, Florida
Saturday August 24th 2019

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Outtakes—Myth Busters

By Rick Outzen

The Escambia County School District earned a B for the 2018-19 school year. However, the grade isn’t a reason for celebration because that grading scale has been so watered down that 54% qualifies as a B. Escambia had a 55%, one point above the minimum.

The district performed poorly when compared to other 28 large school districts with more than 20,000 students. Escambia was the lowest-performing district in Mathematics and Social Students, and only two districts were lower in English Language Arts and Science.

For the past decade, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and district administrators have given several reasons for the poor performance. It’s time we bust those myths.

Thomas likes to point to the county’s poverty as to why the district struggles. Escambia County had one elementary school with 100 percent economically disadvantaged students that earned a B, Montclair. However, other Florida school districts have had success. Statewide, there are 373 non-charter elementary schools with the same demographic—one of four of those schools performed at A and B levels.

Some say Escambia’s problems are tied to a large percentage of minority students. Inweekly analyzed the 16 Florida districts that had over 10,000 students and a minority of white students. Only two of the districts performed worse than Escambia County.

Escambia’s student population was 46.8% white for the 2018-19 school year. Collier (32.9%), Miami-Dade (6.7%), Palm Beach (30.3%), Alachua (42.6%) and Orange (25.3%) had smaller percentages of white students and earned A’s.

“But wait, Rick”—some of at the District Palace on Pace might say—“it’s the black students.”

For the 2018-19 school year, Florida had six school districts with over 10,000 students, of which more than 30% were African American. Alachua County had 34.2% black student population and is an A district. Duval (43.4%), Leon (43.7%), Broward (38.8%) and St. Lucie (31.1%) missed being A districts by one percentage point. Escambia County (35.1%) had the lowest score of the six districts.

Of the 16 large districts with a minority of white students, only Highlands, Leon and Escambia have elected superintendents. Among the six districts with more than 30% African American students, only Leon and Escambia have elected superintendents.

Another favorite target of the district administration is the teachers. However, Escambia has the lowest median salary for teachers in Northwest Florida—Okaloosa $47,693, Santa Rosa $44,062 and Escambia $41,500.

Escambia County’s education isn’t bad because of poverty or race. Its leadership at the district level doesn’t know how to set up a curriculum, train teachers and establish schools to educate those populations while other Florida districts have.

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Note: Calling all Escambia teachers. We want to hear your stories about what’s really happening in your schools. All sources will remain anonymous. Please email me at rick@inweekly.net.