The battle of middle school is not going well in Escambia County.
Every year when the FCAT data comes in, achievement levels drop off starkly.
The only district middle school that consistently posts high state standardized test scores is Brown-Barge, a magnet school that includes the program for gifted students, draws children from all over the county. In general, reading and math proficiency scores there are in 80s or high 70s.
Eighth-graders there last year were 85 percent proficient in reading; 81 percent proficient in math; 69 percent proficient in science; and 52 percent proficient in writing.
So when you peel that layer of high-performing students out of the pool, what do you have left?
Middle schools that post achievement scores in the 50s and 60s, and too often are in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Warrington Middle School
-- Put into turnaround after getting F from the state Department of Education for 2013. The school was a D school on 2012. Warrington has a new principal this year, Reggie Lipnick.
-- Eighth graders: 34 percent proficient in reading; 35 percent proficient in math; 40 percent proficient in science; 42 percent proficient in writing.
When those students were seventh-graders, they were 31 percent proficient in reading and 23 percent proficient in math.
-- Warrington eighth-graders posted some of the largest numeric gains in scores of any middle school in the county this year: Reading is up 9 points; math up 11 points; science up 12 points; 19 points in writing.
When those students were in sixth grade, 28 percent of them were proficient in reading and 18 percent in math. This year, 34 percent were proficient in reading and 35 percent in math.
-- Says Superintendent Malcolm Thomas: “Warrington had gains in lots of areas. It’s not going to make them an A but I think we’ve gotten them out of the F range.”
Lipnick is the former principal at Ferry Pass Middle and, Thomas says, “one of my best administrators for school culture. She’s going to do amazing things.
“I’m seeing veteran teachers wanting to move to Warrington, and that’s a great sign. I’m going to believe it that when I see parents transfer into that attendance zone, then I think we will have started to accomplish the turnaround we needed. “
-- There is a flight academy academic track at the school and, Thomas says, they’ve hired a new band director, and there is talk of standing up a chorus at the school.
“The things the district can control we’re going to control and move on,” he said. “At some point, we will need community support to help with that band or some kids will knocked out of that program.”
Workman Middle School
-- Set up as an International Baccalaureate school to raise academic standards and to offer an alternative for parents who leave the public school system for private school when their children enter middle school. Workman achieved official IB World School status in 2012 by the International Baccalaureate Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Workman is also a designated Title I school, which means it is eligible for federal funding because of the poverty level of the students it serves. Workman has a 70 percent free and reduced-price lunch rate in 2013 and a minority rate of 67 percent. Workman earned a D last year on the FCAT.
-- In 2014, 47 percent of eighth-graders were proficient at reading; 36 percent at math; 45 percent in science; in writing, 36 percent.
Sixth-graders there were 52 percent proficient in reading and 42 percent proficient in math. Both figures are up from 2011.
-- Superintendent Thomas says: “I think we’re making progress, there’s still some maturity that needs to occur, but they’ve made progress, and I think the parents are seeing some results.”