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School scores up from last year but reflect a drop from 2019

News Staff Writer

There was plenty of excitement in the Escambia County Board of Education meeting room last Thursday, December 14, when the system’s latest “report card” showed marked improvement for most schools over last year’s scores. Unfortunately, almost all county schools, as well as the system, either remained at or dropped from the scores they received in 2019, when John Knott was superintendent.
“I’m proud to announce our district moved up 7 points, from 77 to 84, which is an astronomical change in one year,” Superintendent Michele McClung said. “In addition, 50 percent of the schools in the county moved up 7-to-14 points in one year; 40 percent moved up 11-14 points; and 80 percent moved forward. None of our schools moved a letter grade backward.”
Eight of the county’s 10 schools showed improvement over 2022, and the system as a whole enjoyed a 7-point jump.
Rachel Patterson Elementary, one of four schools considered Atmore-area centers of learning, slipped 2 points, from 78 to 76, and Flomaton High’s report card showed a 3-point drop over 2022 numbers.
Escambia County Middle School and W.S. Neal High School each showed the biggest gain at 14 points; W.S. Neal Elementary had a 13-point improvement, and Pollard McCall Junior High’s score was 12 points higher than last year.
W.S. Neal Middle gained 7 points, with Escambia County High (4), Flomaton Elementary (3) and Huxford Elementary (2) each also showing gains.
McClung said the performance of the county’s most-improved schools could mean a cash windfall for the system.
“The state puts out a list of the 25 most-improved schools, and I expect at least four of our schools to dominate that list,” she said. “The majority of schools on that list usually gain 9 or 10 points, and last year, the state paid $8,000 to each of (the top 25) schools. We were the most improved district in the state this year. I’m very proud of that. In addition to that, we outperformed the state average.”
McClung, who was replaced the next day as superintendent, said the scores reflect the blueprint she and her staff implemented to strengthen the system.
“Systemic change in the right direction never happens by chance, it happens by design,” she commented.
But, while the scores earned by the system and the individual schools were impressive when compared to the previous year, only two schools earned scores higher than those achieved in 2019, and two others got the same score as they had that year. (Due to the COVID pandemic, there were no report cards issued in 2020 and 2021.)
Rachel Patterson’s 76 was 6 points higher than the school earned four years ago, and W.S. Neal Elementary showed a 4-point increase, from 79 to 83, over that same span. This year’s scores for W.S. Neal High (81) and Huxford Elementary (79) were the same as each school earned in 2019.
Scores for the remaining six schools all dropped from the 2019 figures, as did the overall system grade. Flomaton High showed the biggest drop, from 90 to 80, while Escambia County High’s 9-point drop (74 to 65) was the second-largest decrease among local schools.
Escambia County Middle went from 76 four years ago, to 70 this year; W.S. Neal Middle went from 85 to 81; Pollard McCall’s 84 was also 4 points less than the school scored in 2019, and Flomaton Elementary’s 88 was 2 points less than the 90 it received that year.
The overall system grade of 84 reflects a 7-point jump from last year but is actually 1 point lower than in 2019.

2023 scores from the individual schools (scores from 2022 in parenthesis):
Atmore area
Huxford Elementary, 79 (77)
Rachel Patterson Elementary, 76 (78)
Escambia Co. Middle, 70 (56)
Escambia Co. High, 65 (61)
Brewton/East Brewton
W.S. Neal Elementary, 83 (70)
W.S. Neal Middle, 81 (74)
W.S. Neal High, 81 (67)
Flomaton area
Flomaton Elementary, 88 (85)
Flomaton High, 80 (83)
Pollard McCall, 84 (72)