Back to School

children_classroomWith the passage of the Labor Day holiday, schools everywhere are now back in session. And if most parents experience a certain amount of joy—at least secretly—at seeing their children back in school after the long summer break, then parents with students in Sarasota County schools should feel positively ecstatic.  For not only have they entrusted their offspring to one of the best-run public school systems in the country, but have enrolled them in schools that collectively comprise one of the state’s highest achieving school districts.

Following are some key facts about the level of success routinely achieved by the Sarasota County School District:

  • Of the state’s 67 school districts, Sarasota’s is one of only five graded “A” by the Florida Department of Education in 2013; and has received the state’s highest mark for each of the past 10 years.
  • Fully 90% of Sarasota County’s elementary and middle schools earned “A” or “B” grades in 2013.
  • On average, students in Sarasota County public high schools significantly outperformed their peers in the U.S.—and in other Florida districts—on the 2012 SAT Tests.  Local averages on the test, which assesses college readiness, were higher than the national and state averages on all three sections of the test—mathematics, critical reading and writing skills.
  • Average SAT scores in Sarasota County were 30 and 29 points higher, respectively, than state averages in critical reading and mathematics; and 25 points higher in writing.  Compared to the national average, scores for the Sarasota school district are 26 points higher in reading, 7 points higher in math; and 13 points higher in writing.
  • An independent study conducted in 2012 by MGT of America concluded that the Sarasota County School District is one of the best-run school systems the company has ever reviewed, citing high performance and innovative practices as its rationale.
  • The district has been recognized for outstanding arts education by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National School Boards Association.
  • The district offers school choice and magnet programs, including International Baccalaureate, Advanced International Certificate of Education, Visual and Performing Arts programs.

In a related development, the University of South Florida/Sarasota-Manatee just welcomed its first incoming class of freshman since the school established a campus here in 1975.  The leap to a comprehensive four-year university is expected to be further enriched by community partnerships with such revered scientific institutions as Mote Marine Laboratory; and by enhanced relationships with the area’s various arts and cultural organizations. Additionally, the area is home to Ringling College of Art & Design, New College of Florida and State College of Florida, each an outstanding four-year institution in its own right.

This is huge, as Sarasota and Manatee Counties now have all the academic resources necessary to both fuel a highly-educated workforce; and to stem the so-called “brain drain” of gifted students who leave the area to attend four-year universities then are lured elsewhere to pursue their post-academic careers.  

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported recently that a local entrepreneur has made it his mission to transform the region into a hub of technology and innovation. That’s a worthy aspiration if there ever was one, except that just about every community in America aspires to the same piece of technology pie.  Still, Southwest Florida has a better chance of succeeding than most.  In addition to our acclaimed recreational and cultural scenes we not only have one of Florida’s highest-rated public school systems but also the four-year colleges that will not only attract the best minds, but will also keep them here after graduation.

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