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PECS accolades keep piling up

At a faculty meeting in the PECS gymnasium Aug. 2, a banner showcasing the schools “A” grade in the statewide assessment was unveiled. (Courtesy PECS)

The Seminole Tribe’s Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School (PECS) on the Brighton Reservation recently celebrated an accomplishment Aug. 2, adding to an impressive list of kudos.

Principal Tracy Downing said the PECS yearly assessment that is required by the state – called the Florida Statewide Assessments (FSA) – was the highest in the school’s 16-year history.

“This school has a history of performing very well,” Downing said. “That is attributed to the support – the kids come willing to learn and have family members helping them – not just parents, but the community.”

Out of 3,417 schools in Florida, PECS ranked No. 283 in percentage points earned in the FSA, placing it in the top 8% of all schools – an “A” grade. The score also places PECS as the highest performing school in the Heartland Consortium – which consists of 42 schools in six rural counties including Glades County where the school is located.

Downing said of the 42 pre-kindergarten through eighth grade schools in the consortium – there were three “A’s,” seven “B’s,” and 32 “C’s” and “D’s.” Of the three “A” grades, there was a 10% gap in points between PECS and the next highest school.

“All our teachers are highly qualified and we have resources, materials and curriculum provided by the tribe,” Downing said. “We have a large Culture Department and it’s common that these kids are around their family and are encouraged.”

A new state assessment will be used next year – FAST – the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking. The results of the FAST assessment will come out in May 2023.

“We are experiencing some pivotal changes in our field, and we will embrace them by learning the new rigorous standards, aligning tasks and activities to the standard, and then assessing the students using FAST-type questions,” Downing said.

Downing said PECS is always up for a challenge – evidenced by the way the school navigated the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We had a lot of ground to make up because we were out of [in person] school for a year and nine weeks,” she said. “What impressed me the most is how willing the students are to learn and how excited they were to be back. They have grit and determination, just like the tribe.”

She said teachers stayed committed and participated in online professional development throughout the pandemic as well.

The FSA “A” grade is just the latest accolade for the school. In 2019, PECS fourth grade math teacher Joy Prescott was named the 2019 Florida teacher of the year. In addition, the National Indian Education Association recognized tribal member Jennie Shore in 2017 as its elder of the year. Shore helped start the school’s Creek language immersion program, which has earned state and national recognition and has been used as a model for other Native communities.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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