Niceville High School's library features custom-painted panels. Students can check out a panel and create their own artwork for display.

High Schools in top 50 of State Rankings

Schools in the Niceville Area mostly aced annual checkups from the Florida Department of Education (DOE) in 2023. 

The DOE’s new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST) testing standards assigned all but one school in the Mid Bay area an A rating for its information baseline data release. You can find the complete data set here.  

The Lewis School, which serves the Valparaiso and Eglin Air Force Base residential housing students in a kindergarten through eighth grade environment, was the sole school not to receive an A – it earned a B for the second year. Previously, the school had received an A rating from the DOE every year since 2000. 


“I want to let you know how proud I am of the performance of your students and teachers,” exclaimed Superintendent Marcus Chambers in a press release, “Recognizing that the school grades process has been adjusted for this year due to a new assessment and the lack of a learning gains component, I am thrilled that every single one of our schools either maintained their prior-year school grade or improved! We had no school grade lower than the previous year. I hope that each of you takes great pride in your school’s improved performance, indicated by these grades, and I know that you have been hard at work this fall, doing even better.”

Formal Portrait of a Man
Okaloosa County Schools Superintendent Marcus Chambers

How the Grades Work

The DOE assigns a final score to each school in the state based on up to seven variables. Elementary and Middle Schools have fewer variables than High Schools, while combined schools like Lewis have variables based on which students they serve. 

The first portion of the score you know and love – standardized testing – plays a role in the final score awarded to schools. The state tests Elementary Schoolers on math, language arts, and Science as they enter older elementary school grades. 

Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers are also tested on social studies.

The next portion of the grade is determined by what the DOE’s rubric calls “Middle School Acceleration.” This variable is calculated by determining how many middle school students are eligible to pass a high school-level End-Of-Course (EOC) assessment or industry certification.

The final portions are exclusive to high schools. The statistical wunderkinder at the DOE calculates what percentage of students graduate from high school, compared to the number of students who were enrolled at the beginning of 9th grade – and they also figure out what portion of the students who graduate are ‘college or career ready.’

Finally, they take all of these numbers and create a statistic that shows what percentage of the variables the school’s students passed, attained or earned. That number, called the “Percent of Total Possible Points (POTP)” is then used to put each school into a letter grade. 

Those letter grades change depending on what type of school you are in. As the students age, the percentage of points the schools must have to get a higher letter grade go up. Below are the grades and percentage scores required for a school to reach each letter grade. 

High Schools

Niceville’s High Schools sit at the top of the educational dog pile for academics in 2023. 

This year, Niceville and Collegiate High Schools earned laurels for their students’ performance. The pair obliterated the A rating scoring rubric. The grading system set by the state, which uses standardized testing, career and college readiness benchmarks, and graduation rates, saw the pair of schools operate far above most others in the state.

Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College, a public charter school operated by Northwest Florida State College, took top billing in the county due to its FAST results. Overall, Collegiate did well enough to be ranked the 12th-highest performing school by the Florida DOE. Every child at Collegiate was considered college or career-ready by the DOE. Overall, Collegiate earned 95% POTP – a full 25 percentage points higher than necessary to earn an A rating from the state. 

Niceville accrued enough points on the scoring matrix to round out the top 50 schools in the state. 97% of students at Niceville High School graduated – and 83% of students were deemed to be college and career-ready. In order for a student to earn a college or career readiness distinction, they must achieve a passing score on a qualifying advanced placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) examination. They can also pass a dual enrollment course that qualifies for college credit, earn 300 hours in a career dual enrollment course, get an armed services qualification test score and two-course credits within the same military branch, or earn an industry certification. In total, NHS had 82% POTP – 12 percentage points above the level required for an A rating. 

All other schools in the county: Crestview, Fort Walton Beach, Choctawhatchee, Laurel Hill and Baker did not have final scores from the DOE at the time of publishing. 

Middle School

The Okaloosa County STEMM Academy, which focuses on Science and Technology and has its campus at the old Valparaiso Elementary School, had the second-highest ranking of any middle school in the state – earning 97 percent of all possible points for the school. Doral Academy in Miami only did one point better. 

STEMM Stingers posted grades of 97 on their English Language Arts, 100 on the Mathematics, 98 on their Science, and 99 on their Social Studies standardized tests. The school was recently nominated to be a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the United States Department of Education. 

According to the DOE, Ruckel Middle School also achieved high marks in the last round of testing. The school had the 60th highest ranking of all middle schools in Florida and was the second-highest rated school in our area, after Okaloosa STEMM Academy. 

Elementary Schools

All three elementary schools earned A ratings from the Department of Education this year and were in the top five elementary schools in the school district.

Edge Elementary, which dropped to a B last year, moved back into the A category with a strong showing in mathematics and Science. The school earned 68% POTP, a points berth from the A rating designation floor.

Plew Elementary received 75% POTP – and kept its place as Okaloosa County’s second-best elementary school.

Bluewater Elementary remained the highest-scoring elementary school on the FAST assessment – earning 81 percent of the total points. Eighty-four percent of students achieved a high rating on their mathematics assessments, and 81 percent did the same on their science assessments.

Nearby Districts

Okaloosa County School District was one of sixteen districts to earn an A rating this year. Thirty-six districts received a B rating, and 12 received a C Rating. Gadsden, Jefferson, and Madison Counties did not have assessment ratings when publishing.

The District had the 11th-best rating of Florida’s 67 counties, Just ahead of neighbor Santa Rosa County (#12). Walton County Schools continued to shine the brightest in the Florida Panhandle – the second-best school district in the state, after small and rural Lafayette County, moved ahead of perennial education titan St. John’s County.

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