Twin Story: What Really Happened to Pinewood

ft lauderdaleHow can a school go from an ‘A’ to a ‘D’ in three years?  Pinewood was an ‘A’ school serving over 1000 students for many years.  About sixty percent of its students were economically disadvantaged.  A higher than average number of students were English language learners or had learning disabilities. By any measure, Pinewood was a public school success story.   The charter located across the street was half the size.  It had 20 percent fewer economically disadvantaged students, and it earned only a ‘B’ grade from the State.   Then, Pinewood’s world began to change.

In 2007-8, Pinewood’s school zone changed, and some students were sent to Discover, a new public school.  When the zone change was announced, Pinewood lost 100 students before Discovery even opened. The charter school across the street, N. Broward Academy, gained 100.  The next year, Pinewood lost another 150 students.  N. Broward Academy grew by 59 students.

Discover earned an ‘A’ its first year, and N. Broward Academy’s achievement gains earned the school’s first ‘A’ from the State.  Were these schools simply the lucky beneficiaries of Pinewood’s zoning change and which parents decided to transfer their children?  Probably.  As a result, Pinewood’s remaining students did not fare as well as those who left.  Even though two schools may appear to be similar based on demographics, they are not necessarily the same.  Pinewood lost too many of its students who were proficient on the FCAT.  Its school’s grade declined from an ‘A’ to a ‘D’ in three years.  The instruction was not suddenly poor, but the student mix was suddenly different.  The schools where Pinewood’s students enrolled were lucky not better,


Posted in Achievement, Charter Schools, Florida.


  1. Keeping score this way shows the fallacy of using test scores to grade schools. The teaching was good enough for many students until the mix changed. Then, the teaching, presumably did not change, but the student needs did. The goal should have been to focus on the needs of the students remaining and help them to achieve, to learn, to grow.

    • School grades combine the percentage of students whose FCAT scores show a year’s growth with the percentage who achieved proficiency (a 3 or higher). The DOE enters those in a formula. I have not played with the formula, but in order to earn an ‘A’ both percentages would be high. Since so many of Pinewood’s students did not pass the kindergarten readiness test, they would start behind. Even if they learned at the same rate as everyone else, they would still be behind by the 3rd grade FCAT, but they would show growth. If more students who scored a 3 or above were the ones who left the school, it would be difficult to earn enough points to maintain the school grade. Grading schools is controversial. Good preschool programs might help more to improve achievement of at risk students.

Leave a Reply