Florida's more than 3,000 public schools have been ranked from best to worst in a new database released this morning by the state.
The school rankings come a week after the state released its first-ever ranking of its 67 school districts.
Like the ranking of districts, the ranking of schools worries and upsets some educators, who say it does not take into account how factors such as poverty can impact students' academic performance.
"If there's going to be rankings, we'd like to be ranked at the high end," said Connie Collins, principal of Crooms Academy of Information Technology in Seminole County, which was ranked 40th out of the state's more than 400 high schools.
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But Collins said the rankings don't paint a full picture of any school, even if they make her campus look good.
"It's just not that simple," she said. "Nor should it be, because our students are far more complex than that."
Crooms, which is A-rated, is a magnet school but one that has no academic admission requirements, so it enrolls students with a range of abilities. About half of its students live in poverty, state data shows.
By comparison, Florida's top-ranked high school, Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College, is geared for students talented enough to take dual-enrollment college classes. And only six percent of its students are poor.
The rankings are divided into five broad categories: elementary, middle, high, combination elementary/middle and combination middle/high. They are based on the school grading formulas.
So for elementary and middle schools, the rankings are based on student performance and improvement on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. For high schools, they are based half on FCAT scores and half on other factors such as high school graduation rates and student success in advanced classes.
Central Florida standouts in their categories include: Osceola County School for the Arts (fourth); Celebration School in Osceola (sixth); Avalon Elementary in Orange County (tied for seventh); Arbor Ridge K-8 in Orange (seventh); and Orlando Science Middle High Charter in Orange (tied for 10th).
"The Avalon students and staff are very proud of their accomplishments. However, we know all schools are putting forth great effort to help their students achieve," said Avalon Principal Pamela Sanders, in an email. "Many schools face barriers we do not face at Avalon, high poverty levels and student mobility."
Avalon's low-income population is 21 percent, compared with a statewide average of 56 percent.
"We are not alone" in having teachers who are working "extremely hard," Sanders wrote. "Schools across the state are digging deep to help all students have access to a quality education."
Two elementary charters in Orange, Nap Ford and Rio Grande, were on the bottom 10 on the elementary list, while Carver Middle, a traditional Orlando school, was the fifth worst on the middle school list.
The state ranking database does list the percentage of poor children at each school, though that data was not part of the calculations. It shows that most of the struggling schools enroll a large percentage of youngsters from low-income families, though it also points out that some schools with lots of poor kids did well.
Stewart Street Elementary in Gadsden County -- the poorest school district in Florida -- was ranked 25th, for example, out of nearly 1,800 elementary schools. Ninety-seven percent of its students live in poor families.
The new rankings were an idea promoted by Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson.
"Floridians care about education and it is critical that our students have access to world-class schools that will give them a pathway to a successful career," Scott said in a prepared statement. "Measuring each school's performance helps gauge our progress toward that goal."
The Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, called the rankings "misguided" and said they mostly measured family income.
"It's not that standardized test results don't tell us anything. They're very accurate measures of the size of the houses near a given school and the income levels of the people who live in those houses," said Andy Ford, the union's president, in a statement.
Ford said the state should be working to improve public schools, not pitting one against another in a rankings.
"Any attempt to reduce learning to merely numbers is misguided," he added. "Schools just can't be rated like shampoos. Worst of all is using these scores not just to rate but to rank, so that the emphasis is on who's beating whom."
But Robinson said the state put out the rankings, which are based on already available data, to help the public help public education.
"Measuring a school's ability to boost academic achievement helps ensure that we are providing a high-quality education for our students," he said in a statement. "Having the data available in an easy-to-use format allows parents, educators, and business and community leaders to view the information and make decisions about how they can be involved in education decisions in their local communities.
You can find the full rankings list here: https://app2.fldoe.org/Ranking/Schools/
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