Hillsborough Public Schools get 2 national honors for equity and academics

Students, parents, teachers and board members with Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) are celebrating some exciting back-to-back news, which shows students in the district are getting a top-notch education and outperforming their peers across the country.

Board members Shamburger Harris and Valdes with RISE Award
Board members Shamburger Harris and Valdes with RISE Award

First, in a ceremony in Texas, Hillsborough County School Board members were honored as the only school board in the country to receive the RISE Award for their commitment to ensuring an equitable education for all children.

Then came news that HCPS had received another national distinction, ranked as a top-rated school district in America. The results, known as the Nation’s Report Card, were announced by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The RISE award was presented by the National Black Council of the National School Boards Association. RISE, the Recognizing Innovative Strategies in Equity Award, honors one school board in the nation for excellence in establishing and executing policies and procedures that promote enhanced equitable conditions, increased access to quality instruction and improved academic outcomes and career readiness for African American students.

Hillsborough’s School Board was honored in part for creating a new Racial Equity Policy to confront issues head-on and work to create opportunities for all students. The council also noted the addition of the position of Chief Diversity Officer, in 2017, created to ensure students are offered equal and equitable educational access and activities. In addition, the Human Resources Division started initiatives aimed at increasing educator diversity, as well as ensuring that the most effective teachers are in front of the district’s neediest students.

To be among the top districts on the Nation’s Report Card, Hillsborough’s students maintained a high level of performance, compared to 27 large school districts across America, from San Diego to Boston. Most significantly, 4th graders tied for first place nationally in reading and math, while 8th graders tied for first place in reading and second place in math nationwide. The students continue to outperform public school students in other large school districts.

The graduation rate for Hillsborough County Public Schools jumped to 82.9% this past school year, an all-time record for the district and higher than the state graduation rate. The district has also been steadily closing the achievement gap, with a graduation rate increase in all key areas, including African American students, Hispanic students, Exceptional Education students and English Language Learners.

“These results show our students are excelling in the classroom and can compete with students across the country. Our increased graduation rate and now these significant results show students, from our early learners all the way to our high school students, are paving the way to a successful future,”
said Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

The Nation’s Report Card rates performance by fourth- and eighth-grade students in 27 large school districts covering communities across the nation, including Boston, Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Houston, Miami-Dade.

Leaders in Tampa’s business community are celebrating the success as well, seeing a clear connection between these results and the area’s power to compete for economic development and growth in the future.

“One of the top selection criteria for companies evaluating Hillsborough County for relocation or expansion is the availability of highly skilled talent and a robust pipeline of well-educated students coming from our local K-12 and higher education systems,”
said Craig J. Richard, CEcD, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

Tampa’s community leaders believe this ranking strengthens our region’s competitiveness to attract high paying jobs. Hillsborough County Public Schools students are learning skills that will enable them to go on to the kind of future education or training that leads to a career and a path to a successful future.

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