With 81,945 students in the 2000-2001 school year and a continually growing enrollment Polk County School District is the eighth largest school district in Florida and the 37th largest in the nation. The District employs over 4,881 teachers and operates 115 schools, including 67 Elementary schools, 21 Middle schools, 17 High schools, and nine special centers and programs. This large student population is also very diverse.
Over 50 languages and dialects are spoken, and over 3,000 students are enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages classes. The SchoolMatch Site Visit Team observed widespread acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity by both students and staff in the Polk County School District.
The Site Visit Team also observed a high mobility of students and the presence of many migrant pupils. Across the District there is a vast span of mid-urban and rural demographics. In the areas of administration and staff, the Site Visit Team noted many senior administrators at the building and central levels preparing for retirement.
In addition, there is a low pool of teacher applicants as well as a low percentage of budget (0.5%) allocated to staff development. Generally, principals are spending several years in one school building. Strong instructional leadership present in high performing schools was observed across the District. District-wide, 20% of students are going on to college. Within this context, the Site Visit Team makes the following Commendations and Recommendations for the Polk County School District.