Children throughout Tampa wake up each Monday through Friday and head out to school, lunch and books in hand. While they may bemoan another day filled with reading, writing and arithmetic, they are receiving their education from one of the highest ranked school districts in the state.
Hillsborough County School District has a policy of offering a dynamic cross-section of schooling options because they understand that a “one size fits all” education doesn’t coalesce with their community. These include Walton Academy of the Performing Arts and two teen parent schools. Among the public schooling options are magnet and charter schools.
Magnet schools offer students a more exploratory education. Students must show a strong interest in the field of study of their chosen magnet school in order to be considered for enrollment. Even though magnet schools educate studies concentrated in a specific field, they are funded by the state and school district and must adhere to the performance standards just like traditional public schools. Most students of magnet schools go on to complete post-secondary education in their field of study. Magnet schools, listed with their field of study, in the New Tampa area include:
Cahoon Elementary, Animal Science
Dunbar Elementary, Math/Science/Technology
Lee Elementary, World Studies
Lincoln Elementary, International Studies/International Baccalaureate
Lockhart Elementary, Foreign Language & Global Studies; Visual/Performing/Communication Arts
Lomax Elementary, Math/Science/Technology
MacFarlane International Studies/International Baccalaureate
Muller Elementary, Environmental Studies; Visual/Performing/Communication Arts
Philip Shore Elementary, Visual/Performing/Communication Arts
Rampello Kindergarten through 8, Cultural Arts & Humanities
While magnet schools offer highly concentrated curriculums, charter schools offer highly specialized teaching styles. Charter schools are owned and operated privately with subsidization through Hillsborough County School District and the State of Florida. They are just as accountable as traditional and magnet public schools through FCAT testing (more on this under “Standards”, below.)
Charter schools often require parents to commit to a number of hours of volunteer work throughout the school year. They also require that parents understand their particular charter, or contract. Examples of charter school options include those that teach in Montessori style, Core Curriculum or Independent Study (distance learning.)
Any student that qualifies for public education in Hillsborough County may apply to attend a charter school, regardless of how far or close the student lives from the school.
The Sunshine State Standards, or SSS, are the uniform educational criteria for each grade level from Kindergarten through graduation. All public and most private schools in Florida have adopted these standards and teach material so that students will meet or exceed them.
In 1998, the State of Florida began testing students based on the criteria to gauge the effectiveness of the SSS. A consortium of educators and instructional professionals from around the United States came up with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT.
Students are tested annually from third grade through eleventh. Reading and math tests are given each year. Writing is assessed in all grades except fifth and eleventh grades. Science knowledge is tested in fifth, eighth and tenth.
Beginning in the 2005-2006 school year, students are required to successfully pass the tenth grade test to qualify for a regular high school diploma upon graduation. Students scoring less than a passing grade on any of the subjects tested are offered subsequent testing opportunities during their eleventh and twelfth grade years.
According to 2005 testing scores, Florida students scored at or above the national average in fourth grade reading, fourth and eighth grade writing, fourth grade science and fourth grade mathematics. All other grade levels and areas of study that were compared showed Floridian students were close to national averages and gaining ground.
Gorrie Elementary, located just a mile from the University of Tampa in West Tampa, scored highest of all elementary schools in fourth grade reading and mathematics among all Hillsborough schools tested in 2006. Roosevelt Elementary, located in the Palma Ceia area, scored highest for fourth grade writing skills of all Hillsborough County schools during 2006.
Terrace Community Middle School, a charter school located just south of New Tampa, scored highest among all eight graders tested in 2006 in Hillsborough County middle schools for math and science. Wilson Middle, located in the Davis Island community, scored highest among eighth graders in reading and writing.
Palma Ceia area’s Plant High School scored highest among all Hillsborough County tenth graders for math, reading and writing in 2006.
New Tampa schools showed remarkable staying power and above average scores for each of their six elementary, two middle and two high schools. Each school scored 300 or more in all subjects tested in 2006, for grades four, eight and ten.
Private Schools in Tampa
Some families in the New Tampa area prefer a religious or college preparatory private school for their children to receive their education. While the list of private education options is copious, below is a list of a few of the most prominent private schools in the area, as well as their particular specialty.
Berkeley Preparatory School operates to create well-rounded, college bound students. They provide education from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The teachers and staff strive to educate students beyond reading, writing and arithmetic; they offer competitive sports and arts as well as numerous clubs and community service projects.
The Academy of Holy Names is one of the oldest private schools in the Tampa area, having been founded in 1881. Their pre-kindergarten through eighth grade offers excellence in education to both boys and girls. Ninth through twelfth grade classes are restricted to an all-female student body. The school’s teaching are based on the Catholic faith. Students are not required to be of the Catholic faith to attend, though nearly three-quarters are.
The Jesuit School is an all-boy school with a reputation for turning out high-achieving graduates. This school was founded 18 years after the Academy of Holy Names. Jesuit School education includes numerous missionary and community service opportunities for its students. Students are not required to be members of the Jesuit Church.
In 2002, a three-decade old school began unpacking boxes in their new, state of the art facility across from its former home at the University of Tampa. Tampa Preparatory School serves students and their family from sixth grade through twelfth. Tampa Prep doesn’t offer remedial classes, their program was designed to offer challenging coursework in core subjects as well as a wide diversity of other subjects – fine art, computer technology, music, dance, theater, golf, track, swimming, volleyball, soccer, baseball, basketball and wrestling.
Co-ed students at Tampa Catholic High School receive their education in the three R’s as well as the three purposes set forth by the Catholic faith – teaching the Message of God as revealed in Christ and through His Church; building Community through fellowship in the life of the Holy Spirit; and providing opportunities for Service to the community. After school, students continue their education by taking part in some of the nearly two dozen clubs and extra-curricular activities. Tampa Catholic’s philosophy is to educate the entire student- mind, body, and spirit.