Pineview Elementary School, one of five Leon County Schools in the Florida Department of Education’s (FDOE) list of the state’s lowest performing elementary schools, is working hard to get off that list.
For the 2017-2018 school year, Pineview received an F from the FDOE in overall performance.
A new principal and assistant principal took over leadership of Pineview at the end of that school year and now, one year later, Pineview leapt from a low F school to a solid C.
“We still have a long way to go,” said Pineview’s new principal Carmen Conner, “I recognize that, but I’m super-duper excited about what we accomplished.”
Conner credits the dedication and efforts of her entire team for this improvement.
Conner transferred from Roberts Elementary to Pineview three weeks before the last day of school in 2018. She was joined by a new assistant principal, Oronde McKhan, formerly a guidance counselor at Gilchrist Elementary. She said other than a few teachers who transferred to different cities, the teaching staff stayed on board.
“We (Conner and McKhan) started off by developing relationships with our teachers and I think that was a big part of what made everything work,” Conner said.
“We developed relationships with our teachers and provided them with everything and more than they needed and that trickled down to the students,” Connor said.
From there, they developed an EPIC plan.
“EPIC is an acronym for how we attacked any curriculum that we put in front of our students,” she said.
They set high expectations (E), carefully planned (P) the instruction imparted to the students, and then implemented (I) the plan. Then they either completed or corrected (C) the plan based on its success.
It sounds like a simple plan, but the results were dramatic. Math improved from 33 percent proficiency to 47 percent. Reading proficiency went from 25 percent to 32.
But the big leap was in the gains children, especially the children who scored the lowest, made in their overall learning.
“Last year 33 percent of our students made learning gains, but this year 57 percent made learning gains,” Conner said, “It’s gratifying. Our students are learning and it’s measurable.”
Pineview, located on the Southside of Tallahassee, is a Title 1 school, meaning over 40 percent of the students are considered low income. Conner said kids in Title 1 schools are just as smart as any other kids. They just have a different set of circumstances to deal with.
She said most of the students at Roberts Elementary, located in Tallahassee’s more affluent northeast side, attended preschool. The parents of children in Title 1 schools cannot afford preschool or simply can’t work out the logistics of sending the child to a half day of school when the parent is working all day. The children’s lives are also more transient with children sometimes living with grandparents or moving constantly for parents’ employment opportunities.
As a result, Conner said, the low-income student is often as much as two years behind the more affluent children, before they even walk into Kindergarten.
She said another problem that she didn’t see at Roberts is absenteeism and tardiness. She said if the weather is cold or rainy, many students are absent from Pineview. Many of the children walk as much as two miles to school each day. She said a bus stop was added this year that significantly increased attendance. She said adding some of the kids’ favorite activities first thing in the morning motivated kids to try harder to be on time.
Conner is very proud of the strides made this year and said Pineview will push further forward in the upcoming school year.
“I still smile about it (Pineview’s improvement). I still get excited about it, every time I think of it,” she said.