How JFK Middle Improved

By Al Pefley  email

Riviera Beach, FL (WFLX)

Last week letter grades came out for each public school in Florida.

In Palm Beach County, the school district was holding its breath about JFK Middle School in Riviera Beach.

That school improved, and went from a grade of D to a grade of C.   School is out for the summer at JFK Middle, but the school is still a busy place with dozens of middle school students attending a summer camp.

This school, which until recently was on a critical watch list of the lowest performing schools in the state of Florida, has managed to turn things around.  At least a little bit.

"We felt all along we had the kids that were capable. And we really felt this year we had all the pieces in place,"  said Charles Rawls, social studies teacher at JFK Middle School.

Over the past decade, JFK in Riviera Beach has historically been a D-rated school.

This year,according to results just released for 2009,  they earned a C-grade.   How did they get there?  It took some effort.

"One of the first things we did is we rescheduled our students to make sure all of our students that were scoring below proficiency in reading and math were enrolled in intensive reading and or math class," said Melvis Pender, former principal at JFK Middle School.

"We poured a lot of resources into that school in terms of training, in terms of new materials, special programs to help students read on grade level," said Nat Harrington, Palm Beach County School District spokesman.

JFK focused on reading, even in other classes such as social studies and math, because they felt without reading, the students were not going to get very far.

They brought in curriculum coaches to help teachers learn how to be more effective. "Not all teachers are created equal. Not all of them are at the same level of proficiency. So our  job is to make sure each of them has the tools to be as good in the classroom as they possibly can," Harrington said.

They say it's a relief to be off the list of the lowest performing schools in the state.

"We are off that list. So in that sense, yes we are out of the woods. However, we still have a lot of work to do," Pender said.

"A  C is okay but that's not nearly enough. We're gonna be an A by the time we're done," Rawls said.   He estimates they'll be at that level in about two years.