Tampa, Florida-- The long awaited school grades are out, but the news isn't good. There are more failing schools this year.
Hillsborough has three F schools, including two charter schools, and Pinellas has 6 "F" schools. To of Pinellas' are also charter schools.
Statewide there are 365 fewer "A" schools, 259 fewer "B" and "C" schools, 121 more "D" schools-doubling last year's "Ds"- and 15 more schools earned an "F".
But the results could have been worse if the state had not given schools some breathing room.
"When we have raised standards, students' performance improved," that's the personally recorded message State Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson sends to Hillsborough parents on the eve of the school grades being released.
"In some cases, schools may have lower grades. That does not necessarily mean schools, teachers or students are not doing as well as they were before." says Robinson in the phone recording.
The commissioner's message is encouraging to Sligh Middle School principal Angela Chantiel. "When I heard the grade of an F; that's hard," says Chantiel.
Chantiel's challenge now is to turn that grade around under the FCAT's tougher standards. She says, "Motivating them is going to be important."
Recent changes to the FCAT include a revised test, a new scoring system and higher standards. Additionally, the school grade now includes test results for students learning to speak English and those with disabilities for the first time.
Because of the changes, the State Board of Education has limited the school grade drop to one letter grade despite how poorly a school scored.
"We know historically when we've raise standards, there has been a dip in school grades. We knew that would be the case."
This proved to be a year of transition for schools, teachers, parents and students.
Robinson says the provision will protect 388 schools; 339 of those schools would have dropped an additional grade, 40 another two letter grades, and 9 schools would have seen a three letter grade drop.
"It's not as bad when it's just one letter grade. It softens the blow a bit, and I think it gives you hope to say, 'well it's only one, we can go back up,'" says Gregory Verrill, teacher at Lomax Magnet School in Tampa.
The provision does not make a difference for students at Lomax Magnet School. Varrill says, "We went up! We went from a C to and A this year, which has us all thrilled."
Robinson says even though the grades were adjusted, they still matter.
Robinson says, "(Parents) should take a look at the grade that's important. Also see how well their student did on the exam."
Sarasota is one of five school districts that earned more A schools this year.
Robinson says district grades are expected out this Friday.