Escambia County schools move in right direction—off Florida’s most critical watch list

Updated: 9 hours ago

Pensacola, Fla.—The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) has partnered with Escambia County School District since 2018, turning around nine schools that once stood on an urgent watch list for low achievement by Florida’s state Board of Education.

Most recently, Holm Elementary and Warrington Elementary have climbed the rankings and are now rated “C” schools following the 2021-22 school year. Beginning in the 2019, Escambia County brought in TRI as an external operator for the two schools. Both were identified as CS&I Schools—on the Comprehensive Support and Improvement list for the state of Florida.

“The improvement of Holm and Warrington are truly worth celebrating given the disruption that educators and students faced during the pandemic,” says Mildred Toliver, president of The Rensselaerville Institute. “Schools had to shift to hybrid instruction and endured lengthy student and teacher absences due to COVID. Yet these principals persevered, and their students’ achievement soared.”

How did they do it?

TRI prepares principals to lead a school turnaround by pairing them with an experienced principal who has successfully turned around another struggling school. TRI’s methods emphasize supporting teachers with feedback, using data to target gaps in achievement, and fostering environments where all students can learn.

Usually it takes two years for schools to reach their targets, according to TRI. Here are some results in Escambia County:

  1. Holm Elementary: Improved from state grade of D in 2018-19 school year to C in 2021-22, and the lowest quartile of students increased learning gains by 53 percent.

  2. Warrington Elementary School: Improved from D in 2018-19 to C in 2021-22. After one year the lowest quartile in ELA (reading) increased learning gains from 6 percent to over 60 percent.

Because of COVID the state did not assign grades in 2019-20. Prior to COVID, seven other Escambia schools improved after a single year of working with TRI as a consultant between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years:

Brentwood Elementary: D to C

Ensley Elementary: D to C

Global Learning Academy: D to C

Montclair Elementary: C to B

Navy Point Elementary: D to C

Sherwood Elementary: D to C

West Pensacola Elementary: D to C

“Districts face many challenges today including COVID and teacher shortages. Yet appropriately, states still require students to be proficient and meet specific requirements for graduation. Escambia County schools demonstrated that dramatic gains are possible, even during a pandemic. Not only that, the process proved to be a rewarding experience for educators and students alike,” says Toliver.

WATCH: Tim Rose, Principal of Warrington Elementary describes one way he applied data and how it felt to have an external operator work alongside him as leader. Christine Baker, Principal of West Pensacola Elementary School describes her school’s gains and how the turnaround process strengthened her relationships with other principals.

About The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI)

TRI has partnered with 218 schools and 64 school districts since 2001, including 27 in Florida. School Turnaround, a core program of TRI, works with superintendents and principals to improve academic achievement at underperforming schools within two years. We use a leadership-development methodology to prompt immediate action with sustainable results. Visit rinstitute.org and https://schoolturnaround.org/.

Contact:

Rhenda Meiser, The Rensselaerville Institute, 206-465-9532, rhenda@rhendameiser.com

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