Opinions wanted on the best school districts in the Tampa area

As some of you know, the Bluesclan is in the process of moving to the Tampa areaa. Bluesman and I will be working at MacDill AFB, on Tampa Bay. When we get there, we will be buying a house, and the major driving factor in choosing where that house will be will be the quality of schools.

Does anyone know anything about the school quality in the area? We don’t mind a bit of a commute to get the Blueskids into good schools.

Having grown up in the area, I personally went to Dunedin High school and Palm Harbor middle school. Both in Pinellas county. They were decent schools and over in that area probably a bit better than the Tampa area by the base. Basically all schools in this area are below average, you may want to look into private schooling if that is an option. My sister went to East Lake High and that was a nightmare for her, wouldn’t recommend that school area. All of the forementioned schools are greater than a 25 minute drive from the base because of lack of direct routes. Also what kind of quality of life do you want to live? There are vast ethnic diversities in this area, what do you feel comfortable living with. On a side note if you want to stay in Tampa by the base I would recommend Plant High School, a nicer school than the alternative in south Tampa, which is Robinson High. If there is anything that I can help you with let me know. I am quite familiar with this area, have lived all around it for about 13 years now.

Thanks for the info, z28in813. We have heard that Pinellas county might be a good option, unfortunately, private school is not. Anyone in the work-a-day crowd got any info?

Well I grew up in tampa but haven’t lived there in 14 years so I may be a bit outdated. I can tell you where NOT to live. Don’t live anywhere near the base. Port Tampa (right outside the gate is scummy, although a little ways further NE Ballast Point is a little better neighborhood but I am not completely sure about the schools there.

If you don’t mind the drive, I think most of the suburn-banites are now using the Crosstown Expressway and living in Brandon and Plant City East which have pretty good schools and Veterans Expressway North to New Tampa but I have no idea about schools there.

I don’t think I have been really helpful but I know like most cities stay away from the inner city, Town & Country, Temple Terrace, West Dale Mabry has gotten so over crowded I wouldn’t recommend it as a great eductional opportunity for the kiddies. Hope it helps a little.

A friend of mine (who works in Tampa, sort of), keeps trying to convince me that Sarasota has very good schools. Brandon would be closer if their schools are any good.

I was recently surprised to see several Tampa area schools pop up in some ranking of schools, correlated to success on Advanced Placement tests. I know that St. Petersburg HS was one, but I’m not certain on the others. I’ll see if I can dig those up. Personally I am a product of Pinellas County schools, but cannot give them a glowing review from my experience. It’s the main thing that keeps us from relocating to the area. Of course some things have surely changed over the past 23 years. There are a lot more “lingerie modelling” places, for one. But that’s probably not what you’re looking for.

Okay, here’s an article from MSNBC on the 100 Best High Schools in America.

And a link to the list.

And, as a special service for families relocating to Florida, I’ve shrunk the list down to the handful of Tampa Bay Area schools that made the list:

Note that I left the area Cincinnati area high schools which I am familiar with on the list for reference. The Cincinnati schools (on this list) are all considered very good, with greater than 90% going on to university level education. Which is another reason I was surprised to see so many Tampa area schools make this list. I don’t know if they’ve gone to a magnet program or something else to focus getting high results here.

Hope this helps! - Shibb

Okay, one last thing, then I shaddup. Florida now uses standardized tests to evaluate how well given schools are doing. These are called the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT.

Each school receives a grade, A-F, depending on how it’s students do on this test. The caveat is this: somehow they decided to grade on the curve, giving higher grades to schools that had shown improvement. Which means that if you go strictly by the grades reported, you could actually pick a mediocre/problem school by choosing a school with an “A” rating. IIRC there were only about 4-6 schools in the entire state that got “real” A ratings. Others were schools that had really bad ratings before, but showed a lot of improvement, so they gave them an A. Personally I’d prefer to select an educational institution based on the raw scores. I don’t know if they’ve released those.

So, I don’t recall off hand how old your children are, but here’s how I’d look at the schools:

  1. Find a good high school, that you’d like your kid to (eventually?) attend. Maybe cross the list I referenced in my first post with the FCAT grades for High Schools.

  2. Find the Middle Schools that feed those high schools. Use the FCAT scores to determine the best of these.

  3. Find the Elementary Schools that feed those middle schools. Use the FCAT scores to determine the best of these.

Important Note: I would want to see high FCAT scores over a period of time (the link goes back to the 1998-99 Academic year) to ensure that the school has been consistently serving it’s students well.

Schools in parts of Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee and possibly parts of Polk or Sarasota counties are your target area. The school districts in Florida are county-based, to the best of my knowledge.

Another way to do this would be to talk to a couple of real estate agents. Tell them that you are considering relocating to the area, and ask which are the best schools in their opinion.

This thread is better suited for IMHO. I’ll move it for you.

Cajun Man ~ SDMB Moderator

Wow, ShibbOleth, thanks so much for all of that, and for the link. It’s extremely helpful.

No problem! Once you get it all figured out then you can tell me which are the best schools and maybe we’ll move back down. :slight_smile:

Good luck!

Okay, one more thing:

In today’s St. Petersburg Times, an article claims that 90% of Florida schools do not meet Federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" guidelines. (The second link has a list of all schools, in Excel format, that can be searched to see how a given school has faired.

In Pinellas county, 82% of schools failed to meet the guidelines. Also 87% in Hillsborough,

Just thought that you could use some more confusing data.

Brandon is your best bet. It will be close to Macdill and has plenty of “A” rated schools.