Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vitti Touts Progress Made in Achievement, Diplomas; Superintendent's Self Evaluation Also Notes Efforts to Make Schools Safer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vitti Touts Progress Made in Achievement, Diplomas; Superintendent's Self Evaluation Also Notes Efforts to Make Schools Safer

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

Duval schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti gave the School Board his self evaluation, which highlights improvements in the district's graduation rates, the narrowing of academic achievement gaps and signs that his ideas are bolstering troubled schools.

Among the areas where he said he needs improvement are maintaining school safety and improving certain proficiency rates.

Vitti's self-evaluation is an important tool the board is expected to use as it develops its own annual evaluation of the district's top leader next month. His evaluation could be a factor in whether the district ultimately extends Vitti's contract beyond the summer of 2016, some board members said.

Although each board member will rate Vitti on a scale ranging from four points, meaning "highly effective," to one point, meaning "unsatisfactory," the board asked Vitti to refrain from giving himself scores in his self evaluation. Instead, he used narrative explanations and district academic records.

Vitti said that during his tenure, district schools posted their highest graduation rates and highest rates of readiness for college-level reading and math. Duval's graduation rate, at 74 percent, jumped 6.3 percentage points in the past two years, he said. That increase is two points below the statewide average. Duval's African-American graduation rate also increased beyond state averages.

Under Vitti, more high school students took accelerated courses and passed exams associated with those courses, and more students earned industry certification for potential careers, he said.

Duval also narrowed achievement gaps between black and white students in reading and math, he said, tying Broward County for smallest achievement gaps.

'LONG BEEN NEEDED'

"He has put an explicit focus on closing the achievement gap, which is born out in the graduation rate and college preparedness rates," said Trey Csar, president of Jacksonville Public Education Fund, a think tank and philanthropic organization. "When it comes to low-income students and students of color, that is something that has long been needed in our community."

In Duval, the percentage of schools that fell a school grade went from 50 percent in the 2012-13 school year to 26 percent last year, while the percent of schools that improved a school grade grew from 10 percent the prior year to 16 percent in the latest report card. …

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