Kelly Barrera letter to the editor

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Our school district has achieved many academic successes over the past four years, and it has been rewarding to be a part of the forward-thinking leadership of St. Johns County! I want to applaud the hard work of our teachers, students, staff and supportive parents.

While we are never satisfied until we provide educational excellence for all children, there is a lot of great news to share!

All of our schools in District 4 received an “A” rating from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE). Unlike some ranking systems that select only certain pieces of data and apply their own methodologies, the Florida school grading system focuses the school grading formula on student success measurements that include: achievement, learning gains, graduation, acceleration success and maintaining a focus on students who need the most support.

This year, Ponte Vedra High School and Allen D. Nease High School saw improved performance as evidenced by the increase in total number of points earned on Florida State Standards assessment, the number of Advanced Placement tests given and the passage rate. According to FDOE data, our graduation rates, college readiness, SAT and ACT Test Scores are all above state and national averages.

Our high school students also have the opportunity to earn college credit through a variety of dual enrollment courses. Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, we have added Collegiate High School through a partnership with St. Johns River State College at all our high schools. This structured program will offer our students the ability to earn their AA degree while in high school.

Our Career and Technical programs, including 20 academies (The Communication Academy, Stellar Academy of Engineering, Academy of Biotechnology and Medical Research and Academy of Information Technology, just to name a few) continue to provide our students with the knowledge, skills and abilities to thrive, whether continuing their education or moving directly into the workforce. With school choice options, including 30 different tracks and the ability to earn industry certifications, our students have many options to explore. Last school year, our middle school students earned 5,424 digital tool certificates that included Database, Gaming Software, Multimedia, Web design, Programming and Logic. Our high school students earned over 1,620 industry certifications and took part in over 140 summer internships.

Our classroom instruction is supported by professional development and technology, emphasizing reading, writing and critical thinking in all content areas. Outside of the classroom, students have additional educational opportunities through the many programs provided through the St. Johns Virtual School and First Coast Technical College.

We have met many challenges over the past four years, including explosive growth, increased rigor and accountability and changes in leadership. In spite of the challenges, our students continue to grow in their academics; our teachers continue to focus on differentiated learning, improving instruction and learning; our staff, administration and leadership continue to ensure that we are making data-based decisions, evaluating best practices and outcomes, keeping our focus on all students and aligning everything we do with our strategic plan to move us forward.

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