Escambia middle schools have fallen way behind. Time to take notice

July 30, 2013


Public education in Escambia County is at a crisis level. The latest Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores and school grades show a very dire situation, particularly at the middle school level.

In 2009, the school year when Malcolm Thomas took office as superintendent, the Escambia County Public School District had five A schools, 1 B school and 3 C schools. Four years later, the district only has one A middle school, the magnet school Brown Barge, No B schools, 4 C schools, 2 D schools and 2 F schools. These are our future high school students so it’s hard to be optimistic about graduation rates for the next seven years.

The worst middle school is Warrington Middle. Two years ago, we wrote about the problems there (Independent News, “Tarnished Turnaround,” April 7, 2011). We had hoped that Superintendent Thomas and his school board would make changes to correct to what we saw as a failing initiative.

Today¬†only one out of four of its students read, write or can do math on their grade level. Four years ago, Warrington Middle was a C school. It’s now a F school.

We have to figure out this. This is bigger than Thomas and the school board. This is a community problem and it’s getting worse not better.


School Name Reading % Satisfactory or Higher Math % Satisfactory or Higher Writing % Satisfactory or Higher Science % Satisfactory or Higher Points Earned
BROWN BARGE MIDDLE 88 86 58 79 685
RANSOM MIDDLE SCHOOL 58 61 52 45 552
JIM C. BAILEY MIDDLE 57 55 42 55 512
FERRY PASS MIDDLE 54 47 37 48 507
ERNEST WARD MIDDLE 51 49 54 46 494
J. H. WORKMAN MIDDLE 49 41 46 39 474
WOODHAM MIDDLE 37 32 39 26 450
BELLVIEW MIDDLE 39 32 31 32 442
WARRINGTON MIDDLE 26 22 23 29 384
Preliminary Grade 2013 Grade 2012 Grade 2011 Grade 2010 Grade 2009

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  • issia sheppard August 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Warrington is the best school anyone could go to

  • Darron August 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm


    I was wondering how come Malcom has not did anything with Warrington Middle School. It’s amazing that the current administration is allowed to stay intact. Especially, since they have failed miserably to improve educational outcomes. The district knows that they have major problems at the school.

    It has been said that Warrington is going to go the way of most schools in the African-American community, and that is out. Closure! Could this be why there are no new efforts to improve the school, or will the school be closed and eliminate the need for improvement. Perhaps closure is the way it will be improved?

  • Teresa July 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    First of all the DOE changes the variables every year and crunch their numbers to fit what they think should be used this given school year to give schools their grades.
    Also for the past ten years the state and federal government have promoted a push down curriculum and setting the standards that fly in the face of proven appropriate child developmental studies on how and when a child can master certain cognitive skills. Brain maturation plays a huge role in how quickly a child can master a given objective. If their home is a print rich, high language,environment and has parents that stress the importance of education then those children are going to have a head start in school.
    The objectives that used to be expected in 1st grade are now supposed to be met in Kindergarten!!! This developmentally inappropriate curriculum is setting all schools up to fail. Just read the book called The Hurried Child. It clearly explains what is wrong with setting unrealistic standards.

  • joe July 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Ames, I don’t agree with you about anything, normally. Ok, funding is an issue, poverty more so. Look at how much areas like DC and New Jersey spend per child on education and what their results are. Taxpayers want their money’s worth. That’s all.

  • Pat Kerrigan July 31, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    As a former principal of Brown-Barge Middle School for many years, I can no longer remain silent about school grades. It is tiresome and untrue that BBMS kids score well on these tests because they are all brilliant and selected to attend because they are all gifted. Not even close! It is also untrue that all the parents are very involved and supportive of their children and the program. However, because it works so well, eventually the majority of parents do become involved and hugely supportive. Why? Because their students are excited about school and learning, parents become captivated as well. This is a formula that results in increased family involvement. Not only are kids and families engaged in the learning process, but teachers, support staff, and administrators are as well. The entire school environment is about learning. It’s fun!

    While it is true that some of the students are self-directed and self-motivated, it is also true that most are not – they are developmentally middle school age kids – you better have something going that will grab and hold their attention. That is why kids are allowed to select what they will study and why the academic content is delivered in such a way that rote memorization is not required. Recall of information is directly related to real life activities and simulations. Leaning is tied to events important to kids so they score well because the content is deeply ingrained, not just mastered for a test. The academic content is relevant to kids and it is applied by them to their lives right now – this is the power of BBMS.

    So, students do well at BBMS because of the unique and proven curriculum. Period. And. The teachers are amazing. The educators who designed the curriculum based it upon proven research and proven learning techniques aimed at middle school age students. To deliver the curriculum takes many many unpaid hours, including evenings and weekends. It is in constant revision and requires ongoing updating. The teachers who choose BBMS are entirely responsible for the success of the program! It breaks my heart that they continue to be diminished by folks who believe that “straight A” student selection is the sole reason for program efficacy.

    In fact, if the program were employed in other middle schools, and if teachers could chose to direct the hands-on thematic curriculum based on student interests, other schools could definitely achieve improved results – even with kids who struggle mightily and whose parents show little or no interest in their education. How do I know this? Because for years BBMS was allowed to select kids with lower scores and who had “checkered” academic success in their past. Additionally, BBMS was allowed to target a percentage of minority kids equal to minority representation in the general population – 35% to 38%. The original grants were part of an overall integration of schools effort and BBMS was formed as a county-wide magnet school to find, select and motivate kids who might not be successful academically in a more traditional curriculum.

    The BBMS model can be implemented elsewhere if teachers are put in charge of creating curriculum based on student passions, hands-on relevant learning, and if leadership embraces a team approach. Yes it takes time and is a lot of work but, of course, it is entirely worth it!

    There are many fantastic teachers and administrators throughout the Escambia County School District. I believe that if they truly understood why BBMS is successful, they would want to replicate the program.

  • Ames July 31, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Joe-gee whiz, where to start? I’ll keep it simple, many county systems in Florida are educating their students. Look to the east at Santa Rosa as an example. Escambia county politicians, and apparently too many if their supporters simply don’t want to provide adequate funding for the school, and they most certainly don’t want t to support increasing taxes for the schools.

  • observer July 31, 2013 at 10:58 am

    As a community, our first step should be to get rid of the elected superintendent. We should be hiring the best administrator possible in a nationwide search, and an elected superintendent makes that impossible. “Oh my” is spot-on about this.

    Second, we need to force the schools to stop teaching the test. IMHO, the reason for the big drop in grades is that the test changed (from FCAT 1 to FCAT 2, now to Common Core), and the schools didn’t change fast enough. We should stop teaching the test because it is not sufficient and more importantly it does not engage the students. Brown-Barge’s grade remains high because they engage the students and have never taught to the test.

  • EPenn July 31, 2013 at 7:31 am

    To all those that think taking theirs kids out of the public school system here, it actually works in other counties, in Escambia County is hurting the community, you may be right… However, I am not going to sit idly by while my kids are bullied by teachers, administrators who don’t care and prejudge, faculty that insist on emailing my daughter directly without my knowledge (when asked to be at least CC on the emails, they tell me she can make her own decisions…and she tries because that’s the mantra the teachers preach), when parents get involved they are labeled problem parents… Its ridiculous and should be criminal… Administrators that I have found that agree its an unfair system are too scared to say anything for fear of loosing their jobs… Yeah, I took my daughter out of the public school system (un-reform schools/prisons/over crowded mega-dysfunctional schools) and put her into PCA where I feel she is in a safe, caring LEARNING environment. Mr. Bare, Florida Virtual is a great system, my daughter has taken a few courses with them and the instructors where above board and she totally enjoyed learning.

  • denise July 31, 2013 at 2:17 am

    More years ago than I care to remember I taught elementary school and learned several things . (1) The bright kids barely need you except to give assignments and answer the occasional question. (2) The majority of the kids, the hump in the Bell curve, consume most of your actual teaching time and (3) the back of the Bell curve, the kids that need the most attention get the least because of those who are on target for progress goals. If time is taken to bring the slowest of the class up to speed, the rest are neglected.

    At my third staffing in my first year we were discussing the at risk kids in each class and the remedial steps that were needed. The principal asked if I had any quick fixes for the four in my class, and I asked in return if it were allowable to shoot their parents – he indicated that this was not a viable solution at the moment. I had nothing else to say as this was the only possible way to save those kids from failure in school and failure in later life. Disappointed, I left the profession.

    I suppose that remains true today…

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