Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Charter School Gets an 'A,' and Its Students Get $13,800

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Charter School Gets an 'A,' and Its Students Get $13,800

Article excerpt

FCAT PAYOUTS: Principal defends approach, saying children deserve a reward

BRADENTON

Maria Gonzalez is so determined to see her children get a good education that after missing a bus, she walked with them for 5 miles to be at a Saturday morning tutoring session at the Team Success charter school in Bradenton.

Her son, fifth-grader Alejandro Guerrero, 11, reaped the benefits of that determination on Friday when he received $400 as a reward for his success on the FCAT as part of a unique program in which students are given cash as an incentive to do well at the charter school.

"I'm very proud of him," Gonzalez said of Alejandro, who she said loves to read and always reads more than he is assigned.

Rewarding that kind of effort is important, and presenting students with cash is one way to provide an incentive, said Fredrick Spence, the CEO and principal of the school that held a celebration Friday to honor its recent meteoric rise in its state grade.

At the celebration of its new A rating on Friday, Spence gave out $13,800 in donated cash to students who had made progress and scored well on the FCAT. Many of the students at the school at 202 13th Ave. E. are from low-income families in Bradenton.

It has been a hard climb to success for the school, and Spence said he is determined to see the top grade repeated. After the school received an F in the 2009-2010 school year, the Manatee County School District threatened to shut it down.

But a focus on academics led to a B in 2010-11 that was only a few points away from being an A, Spence said. This year, the school got those few extra points.

For the past five years, the school has paid students for good test scores. Students get $50 for a 3, $75 for a 4 and $150 for a 5 on the FCAT tests, Spence said.

Most of the students on Friday received from $50 to $150, though a few took home envelopes with $175 or more.

Dr. Douglas Colkitt, a radiation oncologist from Sarasota and a member of the school's governing board, provided the money.

"It's the best money I've spent all year," he said. "The money represents something concrete for the achievement that they're actually doing, and it's based upon hard test scores. …

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