"Schools of Excellence" get more autonomy from state rules

Six public schools in Osceola County are among 643 statewide recently designated as “Schools of Excellence.”

The recognition, developed by lawmakers in 2017 as part of House Bill 7069, grants principals greater autonomy in daily operations, exempts schools from mandated daily minimum reading instruction time, and, among other things, allows campuses to calculate class size as a school average.

Schools qualify for the designation by landing in the 80 percentile or higher in points for Florida's school grading system. They maintain the name and flexibility that comes with it by earning an A or B grade the following year.

Schools shall retain the designation for up to three years if they continue to meet the criteria, according to the State Board of Education, which oversees the “Schools of Excellence” program mandated by the Florida Legislature.

For schools that have struggled, the Legislature also created a "Hope" grant through which they could make proposals and receive up to $2,000 per student extra for their budgets.

Here are the 2018 Osceola County recipients and some of their noteworthy programs:   

Celebration K-8 School

Earning its 17th consecutive A school grade from the state, Celebration K-8 employs the AVID program, short for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and the Leader in Me approach.

AVID fosters a safe, open culture with high expectations for teachers and students and collaboration in all classrooms. Leader in Me embodies a holistic approach to education, redefining how schools measure success. This approach empowers educators with practices and tools to teach leadership and empowerment through lessons that reach every student and yield effective academic performance.

Harmony Community School

The K-8 school employs the AVID program, short for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and the Leader in Me approach.

AVID fosters a safe, open culture with high expectations for teachers and students and collaboration in all classrooms. Leader in Me embodies a holistic approach to education, redefining how schools measure success. This approach empowers educators with practices and tools to teach leadership and empowerment through lessons that reach every student and yield effective academic performance.

Kissimmee Elementary School

English and Spanish are taught in unison at Kissimmee Elementary School’s Dual Language Program. Academic subjects are taught to all students in English and Spanish. The cross-cultural program creates an bilingual environment for all students who maintain and expand their first language while acquiring their second.  

Dual Language - The Dual Language Program is an educational model that promotes high academic achievement, while supporting second language development, and cross-cultural understanding for all students.  Academic subjects are taught to all students in English and Spanish. The program creates an additive bi-literate environment for all students; first language is maintained, while the second language is acquired.

Kissimmee Elementary also employs Project Lead the Way, or PLTW, which brings learning to life. The program empowers students to adopt a design-thinking mindset through compelling activities, projects and problems that build upon each other and relate to the world around them. And as students engage in hands-on activities in areas such as computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, they become creative, collaborative problem solvers ready to take on any challenge.

New Dimensions High School

This charter school promotes itself as a “Public School of Excellence, With a Private School Atmosphere. New Dimensions offers small classes, tracks both college-bound and workforce-bound students and partnerships with Valencia College, the University of Central Florida and other Central Florida and Osceola County organizations. The school is known for its close-knit environment and has school athletic teams, after-school activities and other traditional high school characteristics.

Osceola County School for the Arts

Known as OCSA, the school is the first of its kind in the school district and draws students from all over Osceola County. The high school offers “majors” in instrumental music/band, creative writing, dance, orchestra, technical theater, theater/acting, visual arts, and vocal music.

OCSA was named one of the best high schools in the state and the nation by U.S. News & World Report magazine in 2018, ranking 34th in Florida and 467th in the nation.

Professional & Technical High School (PATHS)

The school’s straightforward name aligns with its straightforward approach to providing students with a path to a paying job. The highly specialized tracks offers at PATHS include: A/C refrigeration & heather technology, applied cybersecurity, automotive service technology, commercial food and culinary arts, can nursing assistant, cnc production specialist (manufacturing), digital design, digital information technology, dual enrollment, electricity, future educators program, legal administrative specialist, medical administrative specialist, medical assisting, medical coder/biller, medical laboratory assisting, network support services, pharmacy technician and plumbing, PATHS was named one of the best high schools in the state and the nation by U.S. News & World Report magazine in 2018, ranking 52nd in Florida and 688th in the nation.