By Donald Rodrigue
For Hometown News
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- The almost 41,000 students enrolled in St. Lucie County Schools for the 2014-15 school year will find several differences as they return to classes on Aug. 18.
Returning students to several schools will notice new principals: Pamela Holmes at Chester A. Moore Elementary; Felicia Nixon at Dan McCarty Middle School; Henry Sanabria at Lincoln Park Academy; Kerri Walukiewicz at Rivers Edge Elementary; Andrea Popwell at St. Lucie West Centennial High School; and Nicole Telese at Southport Middle School.
St. Lucie County Schools Superintendent Genelle Yost says this year's enrollment of 40,768 students is nearly the same as last year, with only kindergarten showing a significant decline in enrollment figures.
"We are seeing fewer KG students at this time, which is in alignment with the U.S. Census," Ms. Yost said.
Students previously accustomed to taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test-more commonly referred to as the FCAT-will find even less of those exams this year. The only FCATs to be administered this year are for fifth and eighth grade science classes, as well as FCAT 2.0 retakes for students who previously tested low in math and reading. Most of the subjects formerly tested via FCAT will be assessed this year by end of course exams or the new Florida Standards Assessments, known simply as FSAs. Unlike the primarily multiple-choice FCATs, FSAs are designed to test critical thinking skills by requiring students to more analytically interact with content by responding with written answers and even creating graphs.
Just as with the FCAT, passing grades with the English Language Arts FSA in third grade are critical for advancement, and in 10th grade for graduation. Good cause exemptions for third graders will still be available for promotion as before. Tenth graders must also earn a passing grade on the algebra 1 end of course exam. Students will also be allowed the same number of retakes for the critical FSAs and end-of-course exams. This year, FSA end-of-course exams in the spring will include algebra 1, geometry and algebra 2. Next Generation Sunshine State Standards end-of-course exams will include biology 1, civics and U.S. history.
Ms. Yost says she is proud of FCAT performance by district students in the past and believes "quality instruction and intervention are of the utmost importance" in order to remain successful in the future.
"We have seen improvement in the writing process as demonstrated through our 2013-14 FCAT writing results as we exceeded the state's percentage of proficient students in fourth grade and improved nine and 12 percentage points in grades eight and 10," she said. "St. Lucie Public Schools was one of 13 districts to see improvements in all 2013-14 end-of-course exams."
In addition to high quality instruction, the St. Lucie County School District will focus on the goals of academic excellence and achievement, providing safe and caring schools and the recruitment and retention of high quality staff, Ms. Yost added.