The Polk County School District is commended for the following goals, programs, and practices:
1. College-bound Student Performance: College entrance examination results for those students taking the SAT and ACT are exemplary when compared to school systems with similar populations of students; similarly, participation in the Advanced Placement Program where high school students can earn college credit, exceeds the effectiveness level for comparable school districts.
2. High Quality, Dedicated School Site and Central Leadership Staff: Staff members of the Polk County School District appear to be highly dedicated and have received commendations and recognition in numerous areas. Examples include: 72 Polk teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; Dana Kelly, Florida state “Alpha” Teacher of the Year (Gifted Education); 15 Polk teachers won Disney Teacherrific Awards; Jesse Keen Elementary was designated a Distinguished School by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title I Office; Lakeland High School had three teachers selected as National Council on Economic Education Award winners; the Florida Department of Education awarded 17 Polk County schools Five-Star School Awards; and Marcia Smith, Polk County School Food Service Director, was elected President of the American School Food Service Association.
3. Individual Student Recognition: Students in the Polk County School District have distinguished themselves in many ways. Examples include: Two students, Victoria Astley and Clayton Tillman, achieved perfect scores on the ACT college entrance examinations; Jessica Daniel was named a national award winning foreign language student; Bartow International Baccalaureate’s 2001 graduates scored the 4th highest average on the ACT in the United States; and state championship titles in athletics were won by Kathleen High School, Basketball State Championship Title, the Lake Region High School, Wrestling State Championship Title, Bartow High School, Weightlifting State Championship Title, and Frostproof High School and Lakeland High School, State Football Championship Titles in their divisions.
4. Facilities Maintenance: The Site Visit Team observed a high level of pride and quality of maintenance in the vast majority of sites visited. The custodial and maintenance staff, principals, teachers and other support personnel in these schools demonstrate a great deal of ownership in keeping even the oldest and most temporary structures clean and functional.
5. Availability of High Quality Choice Options for Students and Parents to Address Individual Student Needs: The Site Visit Team observed a plethora of high quality options to respond to individual student needs and interests. Examples include highly enriched curricula such as the International Baccalaureate Program at Bartow High School; computer assisted program at Jenkins High School; Lawton Chiles Magnet School for Math & Science; Harrison Center for the Arts; Traviss and Ridge Technical Centers; and McKeel Academy for Technology.
6. Involvement of Community: Throughout Polk County, examples are evident of a high degree of cooperation of business leaders, parent volunteers and community participants in improving the environment and program provided to students. Examples range from numerous tutors who work with individual students to improve skills, to businesses that sponsor business partnerships, to volunteers who work on upkeep of school building landscapes.
7. Clear instructional focus evident in most schools: Innovations in this area include use of demonstration and lead teachers at Inwood Elementary Schools, the Gold Ticket Program at Wendell Watson Elementary School where students enter a lottery for free books when they receive Gold Tickets for good behavior; reading and research promotion at the Lake Gibson High School Media Center which include a coffee house style café to entice students into the center; creation of a student publishing company at McKeel Academy for Technology; token economy established at McKeel Academy for Technology to reinforce strong workplace skills; emphasis on workplace skills including the middle school required shadowing program and the high school required nine-week internship program; “Nights On Line”, a web-based communications tool for keeping parents informed regarding student learning and school experiences.
8. Celebration of diversity: Unlike the outcomes and conditions in many large school districts, which appear to be overwhelmed by racial/ethnic majorityminority population shifts, tend to be poor, lack community members and parents with high educational attainments and backgrounds, and agonize over potentially eroding funding, Polk County Public School District has truly demonstrated that it has prepared itself to educate Polk County students irrespective of their race or ethnicity. The SchoolMatch Site Visit Team found ample evidence that the Polk County School District can and does help students in many schools increase performance, and can and does enable students to take advantage after graduation of employment and educational opportunities regardless of their race or ethnicity. One of the many strengths of the school district is its staff’s belief in the unlimited nature of human potential. The Polk County School District celebrates its multicultural pupil population. The Perception Survey data supports the notion of acceptance of diverse student backgrounds.
9. Communicating With the Public: The Site Visit Team commends the District for its excellent use of communication networks to the residents of Polk County including cable television, system-generated documents and news media relations.
10. Stakeholder perceptions of satisfaction: On average, parents, teachers and administrators completing the SchoolMatch Perception Survey of Effectiveness give the District generally high marks in: