Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Palm Terrace Elementary located at 1825 Dunn Ave., one of three local schools that serve a large number of Daytona's Black children, was awarded a D grade again this year by the Florida Department of Education. The other two schools are Westside Elementary and Champion Elementary. Although, Palm Terrace still got a D, it was two points shy of a C showing a 45 point or six-percent improvement from last year. A fourth Volusia County school 'South Daytona' also received a D.
After getting a ‘D’ or 'F' grade for three or more straight years, the Florida Department of Education calls for a third party to come in and help with operations to bring the school up to par. Learning Science International (LSI) based in West Palm Beach, Florida was selected by the Volusia County School District out of three finalists.
A community meeting took place on July 29, with representatives of LSI at Palm Terrace Elementary School. Items discussed included how the school district, Palm Terrace faculty & staff, parents, and community members could work with LSI staff to improve the school and raise the grade.
“Our approach is professional development for teachers and leadership coaching and support for the administration," said Eric Paul, Leadership Coach, Learning Strategies International. "We help with system structures and all the other components that go into the school,” said, Paul.
LSI will have a full-time faculty coach working with teachers daily and a leadership coach working with the administration 12 days a month. Learning Strategies has been at the school since May. The organization has a track record of turning around under performing schools.
Most recently LSI helped Mosley Elementary in Palatka and both Fairmount Park Elementary and Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg. Only Lakewood Elementary didn't improve a letter grade. Both Mosley and Fairmount jumped from a D to a C.
“I’m an athlete at heart. It was like playing a championship game and losing by one point. I reflected and thought about it. We saw significant improvement. We just have a few more areas to improve in,” said Principal Tucker Harris.
Palm Terrace faces challenges to improve its grade. The school has a large percentage of African-American and minority students, 97-percent of students on free or reduced lunch and a high number of tier I students (achievement & behavior).
The school already has implemented practices to improve including: behavior controls, addressing student’s emotional needs and adding structure to the school day.
"We handled a lot of behavior issues. We achieved improved attendance and reduced referrals. Teachers also spent more time on teaching and students received more instruction," said Harris.
Brittany Parks has kids who attend the school; she spoke on the school's situation.
Parks said, "The school is slowly making improvements but more time is needed. I think they are on the right track. Children in the school face challenges that other kids don’t face. I don’t know what to think about the Learning Sciences International yet.”