SUMTER SCHOOLS: In state top 10

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By Bob Reichman

Sumter County school system has earned substantial bragging rights.
The Florida Department of Education (DOE) recently released the top 10 ranked school districts in Florida and Sumter made the list, outscoring 57 of the 67 school districts in the state. 
Sumter is also designated as an ‘A’ district for the fourth consecutive year.  The ranking is based on each district’s total average FCAT scores.  “Everyone should take great pride in the tremendous progress the students of Sumter County made in the 2011 school year,” said School Supt. Rick Shirley. 
“The district’s rankings show that Sumter students are achieving at higher levels than ever before and that this school district is on track to remain one of the best in Florida,” said Shirley.  “We couldn’t accomplish this without great teachers, kids and administrators, as well as a supportive community and School Board.” 
Sumter’s elementary and middle schools received school grades in the fall with Bushnell Elementary, Webster Elementary, Lake Panasoffkee Elementary, Wildwood Elementary, and South Sumter Middle recognized as ‘A’ schools.
More recently, high school grades were released. South Sumter High School and Wildwood Middle High School are both rated as ‘B’ schools with the The Villages Charter School earning an ‘A’. 
The DOE numerical ranking is one of the first such rankings in the country. The district-by-district ranking is the first phase of an initiative that will soon include a list of all of the schools in the state ranked by number within the three main school groupings: elementary, middle and high school. The goal is to make it easier for parents to assess school district performance.
“Florida is considered a national leader when it comes to measuring the success of our schools,” said Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson. “The Florida Department of Education developed the first-ever school grading program in 1999, and since then we have provided our model to other states that wish to replicate our exceptional accountability system.”
Robinson added that using education performance data is essential for measuring student progress and school effectiveness to ensure that Florida’s educational system continues to move in the right direction.
“Ranking districts and schools based on data-driven results demonstrates Florida’s focus on ensuring students receive a high quality education and provides another helpful tool for parents, educators and taxpayers,” he said.
“Sumter County deserves congratulations for this accomplishment,” said Robinson. “Ranking in the top ten takes commitment, hard work and collaboration not only from those within the educational setting; it takes the support of the entire community.”
In addition to the overall district rating, the Sumter school district is ranked in the top ten on the 2011 FCAT reading, math and science assessments.
Sumter was first in the state for 10th-grade writing, second in the state for 4th-grade writing and third in the state for 8th-grade writing. Sumter placed fifth in the state for both 3rd-grade math and fifth-grade reading. Both 5th-grade math and science ranked sixth in the state. Sumter ranked seventh for 11th-grade science. The school district also took 10th-place rankings for 4th-, 10th- and 3rd-grade reading.
Sumter is at or above the state average for the percent of students proficient in reading, math and science in all grade levels.  
The district rankings can be found at http://www.fldoe.org/SchoolDistrictRanking/.