Politifact: Did the number of A schools increase under former mayor Rick Baker?

July 21st, 2017
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Rick Baker has used mailers, forums and social media to relay one big message in his campaign for St. Petersburg mayor: Schools in St. Petersburg saw drastic improvements when he was mayor from 2001 to 2010.

During an interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board July 13, Baker touted his efforts to help improve public schools in the city, which included a mentoring program he started in 2001.

“We went from zero A elementary schools when I took office to 16 when I left, and our total A and B schools went up by 260 percent,” Baker said. “I don’t take credit for that, I honestly don’t. I know that there’s a lot of factors that build into that, but I’m just saying we were a helper and the schools did not feel abandoned in St. Pete when we did that.”

With this talking point coming up again and again, we wondered about the number of A schools Baker referenced.

Baker’s data is right on the numbers, but as he acknowledged, there are a lot of factors that can affect school grades.

The number of A elementary schools increased

The relevant data comes from the Florida Department of Education.

Every year since 1999, the Florida Department of Education has released individual grades for schools in the state after the academic year.

The grading formula gauges schools’ performance based on how many students score at grade level and how many students made improvements in core curriculum areas of math, language arts and science. Schools can receive a grade of A, B, C, D, F or I (incomplete).

Baker’s evidence for his statement is based on the grades of elementary schools included in his “Mayor’s, Mentors and More” program, which included the majority of elementary schools in St. Petersburg starting in 2001. The program included initiatives such as scholarships, corporate partnerships and business mentoring.

Baker spokeswoman Brigitta Shouppe said schools that had 51 percent of their students living in the city of St. Petersburg were included in the program, ranging from 27 to 30 schools each year.

According to the state data, there were zero A elementary schools from that group in 2001.

At the end of Baker’s last full year in office in 2009, the number of A elementary schools had jumped dramatically to 16. The number of A and B total schools (not just elementary schools) went from seven in July 2001 to 26 in July 2009. That’s an increase of about 271 percent.

The improvement in A-rated schools was not a steady build; the number fluctuated year to year.

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