Sarasota County schools focus on continuing positive progress

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SARASOTA - While Manatee County schools deal with a seemingly endless string of problems, what is the secret to the success of Sarasota County Schools? And how do they plan to keep it going?

District officials say they did not have a magic bullet. But for the last few years they have managed to be among the top school districts in the state -- a trend they plan on continuing.

"We just received word that we've been rated as an ‘A’ school for the 7 years in a row." Dr. Thomas Buchanan is the principal at Tuttle Elementary and he says their success wasn't easy, and is the result of a lot of individual student attention. "We spend a lot of time looking at test scores, whether it’s from the state or whether it’s from benchmark assessment. And then identify those students that really need support and then providing them with that remediation."

But Tuttle Elementary is one example of the positive progress being made in the school district. "There are 67 districts in the state of Florida; five of those last year ranked as ‘A’ districts, and we are one of those five. We rank third overall."

According to 2012-13 FCAT results, 71% of 3rd graders had a 3 or better reading level score, compared to the state’s average of 57%. Those students also surpassed the state’s math score with 68% scoring a Level 3 or higher, compared to 58% statewide.

“I think there are some things we can do to provide environments to set those teachers up to be successful; the right technology, clean, healthy working classrooms, getting kids to school on time and safe."

Scott Lempe with the school district says improving the technology bar has been one of their main missions. This summer they increased the number of tech-active classrooms to 75. "That gives kids access to technology in smaller groups they can celebrate together in smaller groups. It just helps the teacher engage the kids and put the kids in more of an environment that they would work in."

In addition to giving students access to state of the art equipment, the Sarasota County school district says they have put a lot of emphasis on making sure all the students get healthy meals.