Sun-Sentinel - 8/19/2006 12:00:00 AM
by Douane D. James
Led by schools in the west, Broward County shined in state academic rankings announced Friday. Broward accounted for 40 of the 225 elementary, middle and high schools lauded for their results on the 2006 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
The brightest of the lot were the public schools in affluent Weston, which landed nine of its 10 schools on the high-performing list.
Out of nearly 1,900 elementary schools statewide, Eagle Point Elementary in Weston was named the No.1 performer, and Falcon Cove Middle in Weston was named No. 5 of its kind in the state.
"We set very high expectations," said Eagle Point Principal Marelise LeClerc. "Our children know they are expected to do well."
Schools in Weston have some of the lowest shares of pupils receiving free or reduced-price meals, a widely accepted index for predicting student achievement. The same goes for Cooper City, Parkland, and west Pembroke Pines, which also placed a number of schools on the top list.
The rankings reflect the banner year Broward schools enjoyed on the FCAT.
School-by-school grades were announced in June, with two of every three Broward schools earning an A. None received an F.
At Eagle Point, LeClerc said students are taught to view the FCAT positively.
"We say, `This is an opportunity to show what you know because we know you are so smart,'" she said. "I think the kids look at [the test] that way."
In Weston, schools achieve despite being among the biggest and most crowded in Broward.
Falcon Cove Middle enrolls more 2,200 students, the most of any middle school in the county.
"On the surface, it would appear it would be a problem," said Falcon Cove Principal Mark Kaplan. "But in our case we've been OK."
Kaplan said students from wealthy families tend to be better prepared to learn, but that does not mean the work of faculty and staff is trouble-free.
"You still have to work," he said. "You still have to prove yourself."
The FCAT is administered in grades three through 11 in reading, mathematics, science and writing.
The state computes school grades based on overall achievement and year-to-year gains.
One Weston parent said Florida schools put too much focus on testing.
"Who cares what the grades and rankings of the schools are?" asked Andrew Horowitz, whose daughter attends Cypress Bay High School in Weston, which made the Top 50 list of high schools.
"There's too much emphasis on [the FCAT]," he added. "We're creating children who are robotic test-takers."
See the complete list at the Florida Department of Education.
Douane D. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-385-7930.