ACPS failing the ABCs



At the June 6 meeting of the Alachua County School Board, Taylor Gilfillan, Director of Data Analytics, Accountability and Evaluation, and the Alachua County Public School (ACPS) Data Team presented the most recent “ABC Report” (an update on Attendance, Behavior, and Core Academics).

ABC Scorecard May 2023

ABC Report May 2023


For attendance, ACPS has set of goal of at least 95% of students in attendance each day. The Scorecard below shows a negative trend for every metric presented, with most metrics getting worse between February and May 2023. Not only is the district missing the goal by 7-8% for the most vulnerable groups of students, it is not making progress toward the goal.

The report includes 13 pages of attendance tables and charts; the tables below show attendance rates by month for each school.

Of the 38 schools listed, only 13 met the attendance goal at the start of the school year, and that dwindled to only two schools in May 2023.

Of all the “SI” (Special Interest, schools with D or F grades) elementary schools, only one (Alachua Elementary) was consistently above 90% attendance, suggesting attendance correlates with school and student performance (the 2022-23 SI schools are Alachua, Idylwild, Lake Forest, Metcalfe, Rawlings, Shell, and Terwillegar Elementary – all near the bottom of the attendance chart). We’ll come back to that.


The next section covers behavioral goals, looking at days of out-of-school suspensions, overall district- and school-level discipline outcomes, and percentages of students with certain numbers of offenses. Here’s the Scorecard:

This entire table and all the associated slides in the report are most likely unreliable because, as I mentioned in 2018 when the school board introduced its original equity plan, “It’s easy to narrow the suspension gap by not suspending students that deserve it.”

To illustrate my point, every page in the behavior section of the report (pp. 16-31) states: “‘Discipline offenses’ are reported acts of misconduct that have been assigned a disciplinary consequence by a school administrator. This data does not include referrals for discipline that have not yet been processed or assigned a disciplinary action.” In other words, we don’t know what these numbers actually represent because there is an incentive to not track behaviors the district does not want to track (as we reported last year).

Data reliability aside, the report gives us the below table (page 20):

A disclaimer at the bottom of page 20 lists the proportion of students for each category in the 2022-23 school year to “identify disproportionalities between groups”:
5.1% of students are Asian (less than 1% of discipline offenses),
33.8% of students are Black/African American (64-73% of discipline offenses),
13.2% of students are Hispanic (7-10% of discipline offenses),
7.4% of students are Multiracial (6-7% of discipline offenses), and
40.2% of students are White (11-19% of discipline offenses).

Like the attendance goals, the ACPS behavior goals seem completely unconnected to the reality of the actual conditions in the schools and classrooms, and the goals listed at the top of the chart aren’t consistent with the numerical goals in the chart. ACPS has a goal that out-of-school suspension days should be proportional for student groups, but they also have a goal that out-of-school suspension days for African-American children should be under 65%, almost twice the proportion of those students in the schools. Even with selective discipline, the latter goal was not met, which means the proportional goal (33.8% of out-of-school suspension days) is a fantasy.

The percentages are consistent from month to month, but the actual number of discipline offenses increased throughout the year. Page 24 shows average daily discipline offenses by month and grade group (pages 25-27 break it down by school). Overall, all grade groups ended the year with more daily discipline offenses than in the early months of the school year. Rather than setting politically-motivated goals based on skin color, maybe ACPS should focus on simply trying to provide a safe learning environment.

As I wrote (and ACPS ignored) in 2018: “The school board needs to realize that education is a two-party process. The schools teach, but it’s up to the students to learn. We can’t allow the students who don’t want to learn (or how we deal with them) to impact the ones who do.” That statement has nothing to do with race. ALL the kids disrupting the learning process should be dealt with. Those who attack teachers or commit serious crimes (see pages 29-31) should be dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system, not ACPS.

Core Academics

The last area discussed is by far the most important because it is the actual mission of the school system: core academic goals. The ACPS goal is to have at least 62% of students meeting grade-level expectations. Think about that: the goal of ACPS admits that over a third of the students will not meet grade-level expectations. It turns out that student performance is much worse than ACPS’ own pessimistic objective: only middle school Algebra and Geometry students (i.e., students on accelerated tracks for math) beat that lowly 62% goal.

The report devotes lots of pages to showing off the district’s poor academic performance (pages 32-56), but thanks to a switch to “progress monitoring” at the state level, it only shows progress during the school year over three “progress monitoring” (PM) windows. The charts do not compare results to previous years or to other school districts in Florida. (Rest assured, Alachua Chronicle will do that comparison when the data are available to the public as we did with 2021-22 data, although the changes in testing will make year-over-year comparisons difficult.)

Here’s how the performance looks by school:

Those color-coded tables look a lot like the attendance tables. Maybe if ACPS focused on keeping kids in school and getting the troublemakers out of school, the academic performance numbers will improve. There is some hope for the future since School Board Member Diyonne McGraw started emphasizing discipline problems in February.

Since the 2018 equity plan focused on the black-white performance gap, the report dedicated several pages to the racial breakdown of academic performance (pages 46-49). Here’s the short version:

The fact that student performance either stays steady or declines as students progress from elementary to middle to high school suggests that the “experts” who are running our schools are not really experts at educating children.

Board member comments on report

At the June 6 meeting, School Board Member Kay Abbitt said, “I do have a couple of questions about what we’re going to do differently with our subgroup of black and African American students. Because even at schools that perform well, that subgroup does not, so it’s all across the district. I’m particularly concerned with SI schools, about what we’re going to do differently next year. Because while there were some gains at one particular school where I have more in-depth data, we can’t continue to make those gains every year–[the kids] won’t even be on grade level by the time they get through fifth grade. At that SI school in particular, in third grade, 14 of the 72 kids were proficient.”

Abbitt asked how many of the students who were not proficient were promoted to fourth grade in spite of that. She said at one SI school at the end of the year, “62% of the kindergarteners were not on grade level, 76% of the second graders, and 71% of the first graders… But I’m going back again to these SI schools, who still have kids who are not getting the instruction they need. A lot of these kids do not have [certified] teachers in their classroom, which I have been saying since November. And so I want to know what we’re going to do different starting next year… We can’t keep doing the same thing.”

Member Sarah Rockwell added, “So, we’ve discussed SI schools and the test results for black students; what hasn’t been mentioned are the test results for students with disabilities, and these are consistently lower at every school than even our black students. And we are failing our students with disabilities. And we need to take a really hard look next year at what we are doing in our Tier 2 and Tier 3 academic instruction for these students, at whether they are staffed correctly, so that they’re getting the amount of services and the amount of funding that they should be getting. Because we, quite frankly, have a huge problem here, and I don’t hear that talked about, I hear the achievement gap between our black and our white students discussed regularly, but not the achievement gap between our students with disabilities and our students without disabilities.”

Gilfillan responded that not all students with disabilities take the monitoring tests that are used to compile the reports and said he would like to change that in the future so the district could monitor those students’ progress.

  • “Member Sarah Rockwell added, “So, we’ve discussed SI schools and the test results for black students; what hasn’t been mentioned are the test results for students with disabilities, and these are consistently lower at every school than even our black students.”
    Why is she comparing black students with disabled students?Have you no couth, Sarah!?!

    • Yeah, Slice, the only place to go from there is comparing disabled students with deceased students.

    • Sarah mentions students with disabilities (SWD) as an important, vulnerable subgroup, much like the vulnerable subgroups of children of color (historically underserved). SWDs are often overlooked in these kinds of discussions as if their data don’t matter. Sarah was doing her job as an advocate for SWDs. As usual, people with no professional, boots-on-the-ground, long-term expertise/perspective continue to have great trouble understanding our schools when all they have are charts, school board meeting sound bytes, and/or a one-student, parent point-of-view.

  • This is sad and should make taxpayers mad. This failed inadaquate School Board should be dismisssed along with abolishing Jimmy Carters Department of Education. All tax money should go the new local board which serves with no salary, voluntary. Those with students pay the taxes. That might make the parents and students more accountable. What we have been doing is a shamefull, disaster of an excuse for education.Oh , and F your rezoning agenda.

    • Too bad the law doesn’t require similar reports on charter and private schools which have been allowed to steal tax money from the public school system. Profiteering republican led businesses should not be masquerading as schools.

      • Florida has the best education results, thanks to a trend started by Jeb 20 years ago. According to US News.

      • Wow! Those stats really do sting don’t they? Sucks when the truth slaps you in the face and all of those equity policies are proven to be just another failed liberal policy.

      • Joe, per FDoE, Section 1002.33(9)(l), Florida Statutes, requires the governing body of the charter school to report its progress annually to its sponsor. This is done through the submission of an annual accountability report.

        And, Section 1002.33(9), Florida Statutes, and State Board of Education Rule 6A-1.099827, F.A.C., require low performing charter schools to develop and implement strategies to raise student achievement.

        A copy of the recent report (2022) can be found here:

      • The charter schools receive ABC reports just like the district schools, and they did quite well. I’m not sure why the charter schools were not included in this article. I have seen the reports and they are available to the public. By the way, charter schools are public schools.

          • Charter school numbers were included in the ABC report because they fall under the district. The district benefits from charter school success. Recalculate the previous district grades without charter schools and ACPS would not have been a highly rated district. Charters are not the problem. Charters give parents options. Charters are a chance for parents to choose a different and better education that fits the needs of their child. Charters benefit from having parents who are involved and committed to their child’s academic success so they are fortunate to have strong parent involvement.

          • All of the 15 charter schools operating in Alachua County are non-profit, public charters. That is public record and information that can be found and confirmed via multiple sources.

      • Charter schools are under more monitoring than traditional public schools in Alachua County. The Board of Directors at each individual school monitors progress, which is documented, and reviewed during annual audits. Also, the district in which the charter school falls under requires extensive monitoring by multiple departments each year as an additional checks and balance. Charters are under more scrutiny and accountability than traditional public schools. I would like to see the Alachua Chronicle ask for the district/state comparison that was given at the meeting to exclude charter schools. You will find that charters’ academic success, masks the inadequacies of the traditional public schools.
        The district needs to start to think of each of these struggling schools as individual schools, looking at what specific resources need to be addressed at each school, and allocate the resources to help the students that attend the struggling schools. The district chooses to spin their wheels and do the same thing they have always done, expecting a different result. When they continue to fail the students and families at those schools, they blame charter schools to detract from their responsibilities and the fact that they failed to execute as a school district. If ACPS really cared about the students and families at any of the SI schools, they would move high performing teachers into those schools from the A schools, and provide teacher training to newer, less experienced teachers at schools with a less intensive student population attend. This would allow you to train and support new teachers, and as they gain experience, cycle them into SI schools with strong teaching skills. No SI schools should be understaffed and/or have staff with minimal years teaching. Also, the district personnel in charge of areas like curriculum, data, and Human Resources should know the leaders and staff at those schools, be at data meetings, be inside those schools regularly, so they will have a reasonable knowledge of the needs and support to provide at the district level.

  • Imagine how bad the numbers really are! What a joke that hard working families across Alachua, wanting nothing more than to send their kids to decent schools, are stuck subjecting their kids to this mess. And none of this even touches on the trash curriculum. Sad!

  • So, the group that makes-up 38% of the school population accounts for 70% of the discipline problems. Hmmm…

    • And the picture is even worse when adjusting for the fact that a significant portion of the 38% you note represent students with functioning families who are good students and stay out of trouble. It would probably not be a stretch to say 70% of the problems are coming from less than 10% of the students, regardless of background.

  • Here’s is food for thought!

    Child is in 7th grade earned D’s and F’s! The two classes failed with F’s will be made up in summer school and one taken as an elective next year. Parents do not have the right to hold the child back since 3/5 core classes were passed (which when did a D become passing). I’m a little confused by all this. Are we not setting this child up for future failure?

    • Anne, excellent question.

      Failure can be an effective teacher IF acknowledged and addressed while in the relative safety of childhood.

      If failure is passed on as ‘acceptable results’ to move the student forward, then the recipe for disaster as an adult is in place.

    • Anne, I believe this started around 20 years ago when the No Child Left Behind Act was handed down by the federal government. That program morphed into the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. Federal involvement in schools has done nothing but hinder education at every turn.

      • Slice, good point.

        Currently, American public education funding, policy, and curriculum are spread out among three authorities; local, state, and federal.

        The ‘system’ then can defer accountability much easier when performance lags with three dodging responsibility rather than one; too many polymorphic targets.

        That’s how NCLB and ESSA came to be because their predicted failures and accountability could be diluted among the three bureaucracies with no single one being significantly damaged.

        It may be the recent parent revolt directed at school boards is a reaction to bad policy.

        • I was finishing up high school when No Child Left Behind was passed. I distinctly remember opponents of the bill calling it No Child Gets Ahead. It seems those in the know were on to something 20 years ago. You should never teach to the least common denominator!

    • A “D” has been a passing grade since at least 2009 that I know of. I came here from Texas in 2009 where a ‘C” is passing. You can do nothing and get a “D”. Unbelievable!!!

  • Here’s the profile of the average American public school student. Ability to derive useless entertainment from smart phones and the internet — A. Ability to think — F. Why? You don’t breed thoroughbred race horses from plow horses. We are collectively breeding a school-age population of pablum puking, knuckle-dragging idiots and then we blame the schools and the teachers for breeding “horses only suitable for the glue factory.”

    • It depends on the school and the parents involvement. I read about nationally ranked math and spelling geniuses coming from Bucholz every year. It’s the school and the parents.

      • JeffK, there’s probably more truth to this than many people can admit. Bureaucrats claim they know what’s best for students because parents are ‘too busy’ or lack interest in their kids’ education.

        Schools with high levels of parent involvement usually have better academic and behavioral outcomes.

        Rather than accept that correlation at face value, education bureaucrats prefer to attribute failures to race-based biases.

    • Disagree- mother has doctorate, father has masters! You’re wrong on this one! Trying to kids motivated to go to the public schools these days is not the easiest.

  • It makes no sense to focus on “equity and social justice” if it takes the place of basic education. The reason some cultures thrive is precisely because they have their priorities in order and apply it every day. They don’t equivocate and make excuses for not doing it.

    • JeffK, true.

      American education, ironically, had its beginnings in what we call today ‘charter schools’ and while few and far between, were rather successful.

      But, they didn’t meet the social needs of a growing nation based upon immigrants needing education to fit into their citizenship roles.

      In the early 19th Century a Mass. State Board of Education member, Horace Mann, promoted the idea of ‘common schools’ which …”in addition to preparing students for citizenship and work, education is a means for people to achieve happiness and fulfillment.”

      Again, ironically, common schools were also proposed as a way to promote cohesion across social classes and ‘social outcomes.’

      So, what happened?

      Another topic, another day.

      • Exactly…common schools were a trojan horse for industry to take over education. The industrialists who controlled many parts of society (see Fed govt) wanted children that were smart enough to work on a factory line but not smart enough to figure out the grift. And they got what they wanted…a nation of worker bees with minimal capacity to think critically.

        • That’s mostly true, Slice, but the ‘big money’ people needed collaboration from the locals – through their reps – to pull off the control.

          There is an argument to be made that hi tech companies – the new industrialists – don’t really need many workers, therefore, remaining aloof to the US’s education crisis.

          What they DO need are consumers which highlights the paradox. Less educated people have less spending power but often have a smart phone.


          • Good points.
            It seems to me that the ‘new industrialists’ are hanging their hat on Universal Basic Income as the mechanism to ‘solve’ the broke consumer paradox you alluded to

  • After receiving “Report Card” on School Board, elections should be held. Not after folks have forgot about it.

  • Very sad, probably should increase taxes again and throw more money at it 🙄

  • One of the most erosive components of accountability in government is ‘social-desirability bias’ which contaminates research, reports, and policy to mean whatever the reporting agency wants them to mean.

    The SDB concept comes – not too surprisingly – from the social science fields of study and has been appropriated – enabled – by politicians and bureaucrats to obfuscate bad behavior and sub-par performance.

    Len Cabrera’s analysis depicts a classic example of SDB in the ACPS’s reports and their representations by board members. He observes, “The fact that student performance either stays steady or declines as students progress from elementary to middle to high school suggests that the “experts” who are running our schools are not really experts at educating children.”

    But, they are experts in social-desirability bias which is for the voters, not the students.

  • Attendance is a parent responsibility. There is nothing we can do if the parents are not doing their part.

    • For sure.

      There’s a few historical examples of children being raised by the state but the state didn’t last too long……

  • With this group of so called ‘leaders’ their priority is woke indoctrination not education.

  • Nice posting of the data for the readers who do not attend the meetings.

    Two things I find particularly alarming of which you specifically pointed out.
    First, “The ACPS goal is to have at least 62% of students meeting grade-level expectations. Think about that: the goal of ACPS admits that over a third of the students will not meet grade-level expectations.”
    That’s alarming. The current SBAC is willing to accept 38% of the students they are charged with providing a quality public education will not be successful. If that doesn’t get parents concerned about the priorities of the school board I don’t know what will.

    Secondly, the disciplinary policies that are put in place to hide the causes of many of the offenses against other students and personnel under the school district’s authority. That indicates some members of the School Board are more concerned with being politically correct than they are with protecting some of the children and employees who fall under their jurisdiction.

    “Our vision for our students is that they will graduate with the knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics to be lifelong learners and independent thinkers.” ~ From the Alachua County School Board website.

    Their own policies are a direct contradiction of what they supposedly stand for. Is it any wonder many of our children are being left behind?

  • We know how to teach reading. We also have numerous caring people who can use common sense to determine the actual needs and relevance of the education we are offering. Yet, we are so focused on quotas that we have been inept at finding solutions. Children who cannot read are bored at their hours of tedious failure and thus misbehave – you do not solve the problem no longer refusing to deal with misbehavior. Use one of the equity positions and demand the data change. Empower the ability to innovate. TAKE DATA

  • When a compulsory education statute exists – ages 6-18 in Florida with exceptions including the right to drop out – there is an equally compelling moral responsibility for school districts, and their boards, to meet minimum standards of academics and behavior regardless of race.

    This is what is expected and deserved by parents and students.

    Board members repeatedly demonstrate they feel no such moral obligation and are content concealing that deficit with social science busy work.

    BTW, Len, great job!

  • “I hear the achievement gap between our black and our white students discussed regularly, but not the achievement gap between our students with disabilities and our students without disabilities.” Come on, she didn’t really say this, right?

    She does get that a lot of these referenced kids have disabilities which prevent them from ever being competitive with non-disabled kids (e.g., Down syndrome, autism, etc.), right? You can give them all the “services” and “funding” you want, but they won’t achieve along wiht the other kids. It’s not even fair (sorry, “equitable”) to compare them with the other kids. Someone please tell me that she is not actually this clueless.

  • What else should parents expect when some of the offices of Kirby Smith have been filled with underperforming and at times, substandard personnel, some not qualified, whose “placement” in the district offices were at the direction of the previous superintendent?
    Even some board members were not the successful leaders they so proudly, but falsely proclaim. They were elected by some whose primary concerns are not the education their child receives but instead the sporting programs available to them.

  • While understandable – the real reasons for the disparities run deep and are social problems ingrained from hundreds of years of history (legal Jim Crow ended in my lifetime and a scant 60 years ago, and racism did not end then, nor the self replicating fruits of it) – blaming educators – Len says they are not really “experts” – for not solving the problem is just blind. No doubt some are dead weight and others overworked saints, but do you want that job?Yes, policy can help and stricter discipline would absolutely help, but the tendency to blame the school or the teacher crosses class and racial lines as parents are more likely now – compared to the past – to show up for that parent teacher meeting ready to fight the teacher. America needs to look in the mirror.

    • You’re partially correct. It’s only some parents who show up at meetings wanting to proclaim their child is an angel and blame the teacher and/or staff.
      The parents who are involved in their child’s education are more vested and their child is more successful at their educational endeavors than those whose parents do not. Look no further than the difference of results between Asian & African American children. Want to look at a specific program? Compare the Lyceum & IB Program’s participants with the mainstream students and their parental involvement on Open House events.

      I believe what Len was shining the light on is the policies of the district to brush under the rug the reasons that are more likely to be the cause of educational disparities between certain groups. It’s not the individual schools implementing those policies, those directives originate at a district level.

  • Parents of feral, disruptive kids should lose the privilege of public bussing and essentially free babysitting at normal schools and be forced to either have their kid attend virtual school from home, or drive to a central school for problem kids.

    A record of achievement and good behavior from the kids and mandatory parenting classes for the useless parents should be required before these kids can rejoin normal schools.

    If you have ever volunteered in a classroom you know it is like a warzone at times, truly shocking. Normal hard-working kids are being dragged down by the parenting failures of others.

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