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Widespread Declines in 3rd Grade FCAT, With 2 Exceptions–Rymfire and Imagine

| May 27, 2011

flagler county schools 3rd Grade FCAT scores from 2009 to 2011. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive graphic)

3rd Grade FCAT scores from 2009 to 2011. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive graphic)

Except for Rymfire Elementary and Imagine School, Flagler County schools’ 3rd grade scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test showed widespread and in some cases dramatic declines in reading and math. A silver lining: the district managed to keep its average passing rate of 78 in reading above the state’s 72, though Florida’s average, among the lowest in the nation, is not much to brag about. And Flagler’s average of 78 in math merely tied the state’s, after consistently beating it for the three successive years.

The schools’ declines, if reflected in scores from remaining grades, which will be released early next month, may put the district’s A rating in jeopardy. The district has maintained that rating for the past three years. It did so barely last year.

In the state, both reading and math passing rates have been flat for the past three years. In Flagler County, out of 990 students tested for 3rd grade reading (50 fewer than last year, a reflection of the district’s stalled or declining enrollment), 107, or 11 percent, failed to get at least a Level 3. (In the state, 16 percent failed.) They cannot advance to 4th grade without passing the test. They’ll be eligible for summer reading classes and a test at the end of summer. About a third of those who attend remedial reading classes in summer pass the end-of summer test and make it to 4th grade. Another 10 percent receive good-cause exemptions and also move on.

The rest must repeat 3rd grade. Third-grade reading is the only test that decides promotion. Failure to get a 3 in subsequent FCAT tests in subsequent grades doesn’t prevent promotion until 10th grade, when failure to secure at least a 3 in either math or reading can prevent the student from graduating. But students have two more years to improve on the grade. About 7 to 8 percent still fail.

In 2011, the proportion of students passing the FCAT with a 3 or above (out of 5 levels) declined at Old Kings, Belle Terre, Wadsworth and Bunnell elementaries, as well as at two of the county’s three, publicly funded charter schools: Heritage Academy and Palm Harbor Academy. The declines at the three regular elementary schools were slight: from 89 percent to 86 percent at Belle Terre, from 86 percent to 83 percent at Old Kings, and from 74 to 71 percent at Wadsworth. Belle Terre remains the top-performing school in overall 3rd grade reading scores, but its students’ cumulative mean reading score fell significantly, from 1537 to 1471, dropping the average school-wide score from a Level 4 to a Level 3.


On the other hand, even though fewer students managed to get a 3 at Old Kings and Wadsworth, both schools’ overall mean scores improved. That may suggest that the lowest-performing students are getting less attention: At Belle Terre, the proportion of students scoring a Level 1 rose from 5 percent to 8 percent. At Old Kings it rose from 8 percent to 9 percent. At Wadsworth, however, the proportion fell from 16 percent to 10 percent.

The dramatic disappointments are at Palm Harbor and Heritage, where the proportion of students passing the FCAT fell from 71 percent to 44 percent (at Heritage) and from 55 percent to 35 percent (at Palm Harbor). But keep in mind that the number of students tested is very low at both schools: 13 at Heritage, 20 at Palm Harbor, compared with 150 to 240 at the regular schools.

On the brighter side, Imagine School at Town Center improved its success rate from 72 to 77 percent, though the proportion of students scoring a Level 1 doubled from 7 percent to 14 percent, and its overall mean reading score decline from 1473 to 1429.

Rymfire Elementary is the district’s biggest success. It improved its reading passing rate from 74 percent last year to 86 percent this year. It’s not a tie with Belle Terre: Rymfire’s 3rd graders are, on average, better readers, scoring a cumulative 1485 compared to Belle Terre’s 1471, essentially displacing Belle Terre from the top perch it’s enjoyed for several years. Rymfire missed having a mean score of 4 by just four points (it needed a cumulative 1489).

Rymfire doubled its improvement with a big success in math, with the proportion of students passing the test jumping 10 points–from 73 to 83 percent. Rymfire also cut its proportion of students scoring a 1 from 11 percent last year to 6 percent this year. The school also raised its mean score from 1408 to 1458. Imagine’s passing rate improved from 76 to 84. Of all the schools in the district, only Old Kings, 87 percent of whose students got a 3 or better, managed a cumulative mean score above 1500. Its 1511 gives it a mean level 4 in math. Declines in other regular schools were slight except at Bunnell Elementary, where the proportion of students passing dropped 10 points, from 80 to 70 percent. At Palm Harbor and Heritage, fewer than 30 percent of the students had a passing grade.

The state administered what it calls FCAT 2.0, a slightly different set of tests designed to be somewhat more rigorous this year.

Eric Smith, the commissioner of education, attempted to explain the difference, though his explanation might not have scored a 3 on an FCAT comprehension test: “It is important to note that student achievement on FCAT 2.0 this year is not being reported on a new score scale since the new scale and achievement level standards will not be established until this fall. Therefore, student scores represent performance on this new test reported on the old FCAT score scale. In the coming months, independent committees of stakeholders will gather to review these results and create the new cut scores and achievement levels for FCAT 2.0. Once established, we will be able to apply these cut scores to next year’s results, creating a new trend-line of information from which to track the progress of our students on these new, more rigorous assessments.”

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24 Responses for “Widespread Declines in 3rd Grade FCAT, With 2 Exceptions–Rymfire and Imagine”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    I think FCAT is for the birds and cannot be trusted to show you anything. I think the tests are invalid and way too expensive and should be discontinued until the state department can re-group I think this little show has run its course.

  2. Betty ribins says:

    Wow seems like opposite of the 8th grade scores! Wonder what everyone that trashed imagine with the last set of scores has to say now? Good job imagine and rymfire!

  3. JR says:

    “In the coming months, independent committees of stakeholders will gather to review these results and create the new cut scores and achievement levels for FCAT 2.0. ”

    Huh. So they’re grading on curve they haven’t determined yet. Right, there’s no problems with the standardized assessment model. Though it is worth pointing out, the way that the means based [scores express a comparison of all the students taking the exam -- that year] testing that states do for these standardized exams is designed to show an overall picture of students — using these scores to determine individual achievement is improper, the tests just are designed to do this, it requires (or, at least, should) a different style of assessment

  4. w.ryan says:

    How could FCAT be reliable? Look at the range through 2009 and 2011 years. Not taking anything away from Rymfire and Imagine but there is far to many variables for the FCAT to be consistent which states that it cannot be a viable means of establishing assessments. I know that Rymfire has some good techniques in teaching reading because of my daughter. We read with her most afternoons passages to get her consistent repeating numerous times with a stop watch. That is just one example.

  5. Liana G says:

    Florida’s reading and math scores make sense when factoring in the total population of the state’s ELL/LEP (non/limited english speaking students). Math is math, it is a universal subject, for example a very bright non/limited english speaking 5th grade student will and can be expected to do well on said grade level math with the testing accommodations provided. Not the same with Reading, totally foreign and complex to the student. To expect said student to comprehend Reading/English on the 5th grade level without being taught the basic foundations of the language is ridiculously impossible. Can the student read the information? Yes/No/Somewhat. Does the student understand/comprehend what he/she is reading? NO

    Flagler does not have a high ELL/LEP population (student population 12,000, ELL/LEP population 300?), so the eading and math scores cannot and should not mirror the state’s.

    But please, correct me if I am wrong? I even asked a department chair of academia and that person couldn’t explain it either.

  6. dlf says:

    These are the same people who we keep hearing are not receiving sufficient compensation for the work they do. Look at the results that they in part are responsible for and answer that question. If the test results are positive we want to believe them if they are negative we say who cares, they are not valid. How long to do we swallow this crap and poor results. These children are the future of America and look at what we are training them for.

  7. Outsider says:

    Way to go Imagine! Perhaps now SOME people will stop including Imagine School in their general bashing of charter schools. This proves what we Imagine School parents, faculty, and students have known all along; parental involvement coupled with great teachers lead to great results.

  8. Liz McLaughlin says:

    dlf: Have you ever volunteered or sat in on any of the classes in such schools as Rymfire, Bunnell or Buddy Taylor? If you have, then you are entitled to your opinion. If you have not, then shame on you; do not make pronouncements about the jobs teachers do until you see the “product” (as some letters to the editor like to draw comparisons to regular corporate America) that teachers have to work with. Many of these students need, first and foremost, lessons in exceptable behavior before they are let loose on society – i.e., respect, discipline, self-control, and just plain giving a dam about their own education. Everyone tippy-toes around the real problem in education, and that my fellow American is what is going on at home.

  9. dlf says:

    Liz: as a matter of fact I have done some work as the local schools. My last time was at Flagler High and I saw for myself what a job the teachers are in part doing, it is not good when a teenage has a big problem reading a high school history book. Also, since I pay a portion of the school budget I do have a right to point out the good and the bad.

  10. Lin says:

    Teachers are accountable for their teaching methods and what they do in the classroom — parents for what goes on at home. Students need both to be successful. There is a breakdown in our educational system for a whole lot of reasons. Our School Board is also accountable to the parents and students and taxpayers for what is going on in the schools. I think the teachers noted a savings could be achieved by consolidating a school with room with a charter school — who approved the contract that prevented that savings? How smart was that, and how did that help the students?

    Yes, there are social issues at home for alot of students, but that doesn’t absolve teachers their responsibility to teach the students. This is still their job even if the job is more difficult nowadays. If the reading scores drop, there needs to be consultation & remedy. In general, there are lots of missing pieces that cause our educational system to be “lacking” in today’s preparation of students for competing in the world economy.

    Our students need MORE time in class, not less. Our School Board needs to face the problems putting the students first. Limiting extracurricular activities like music & art, sports is also to the detriment of the students. If FCATs are a problem, our teachers & School Board needs to fight to change that system. Fighting for that extra 3% that the teachers are not getting in their retirement benefits and threatening to sue the State doesn’t help the students at all. Don’t forget that the taxpayer is paying 97% of teachers’ retirement and a large portion of medical, almost unheard of in the private sector. Teachers fighting for so many years to hold onto the “tenure” system hasn’t helped the students either.

    You don’t have to volunteer in the school to know what is going on with education. And some parents and grandparents are too tied up Working to be volunteers.

  11. Lin says:

    Forgot to mention –
    When there are problems in the home, the student is under more stress, a great teacher can make all the difference in the world in the future of that child. And I mean coach, music teacher, art instructor or classroom teacher. They can encourage that student and tell them that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to no matter what is going on at home. I hear so little talk about what can be done to help the student — and I also know that great teachers are giving these “intangibles” to their students every day. But change is hard and blaming is easy — we as a community need to work on this. Just my opinion.

  12. Liz McLaughlin says:

    Lin, Ummm, yes you do have to be in a real live classroom to see what is going on in education. Heresay is not reliable. I am not talking about children who have “stress” at home. These children can be reached just as you said – my mentoring. I’m talking about children that do not want to be in school and do not care. They argue with the teachers and say they don’t need school; they talk back incessantly; they walk around the classroom as they please; they yell across the room as they please; they GET UP AND WALK OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AT WILL as they please. A teacher cannot hold their grades over their head because they do not care! They come to school daily without pencil or paper – and not because they cannot afford it – these same kids come in with the latest cell phones and I have even witnessed some bringing in phone/video cameras. As well, they dress in their idea of the latest fashion. Yet, after a teacher gives them a pencil for the day, they “lose” it so they need another one the next day. There is nothing a teacher can really do unless they have the backing of the administration and especially THE PARENTS! It’s not like the old days where we were handed out real punishments for such behavior. Now I hear students say, “you can’t talk to me like that “, or “don’t touch me or I’ll sue you”. These were real, live comments I have heard from students. Personally, I have always pushed my children to be in the advanced classes because, for the most part, these children come from families who care and disipline their children. I guess the old idea of the top 10% rules the world is true and the rest are the riff raff. I see it at play every time I have entered a school.

    PS: I agree that students need more time in school not less. Also, I am a big proponent of after school activities and especially the arts. It has been proven over and over again that students who are involved in these activities do better in school and graduate as responsible citizens.

  13. Liz McLaughlin says:

    Lin, one more thing: You said ” a large portion of medical, almost unheard of in the private sector” is paid for by the taxpayer toward a teachers benefit. Please tell me if you have gotten this information from a real, currently employed teacher in the school district. I have several friends who are teachers that have a “family” healthcare plan through United Healthcare offered by the school system. They pay over $800 a month out of their paycheck for this insurance plus they also have a big deductable and the plan pays only 80% after the deductable. Wow! What a deal! On the other hand, my husband has a “family” plan through his employer and $372 is deducted per month. This includes medical, dental and vision! We pay NO deductable and only a $25 co-pay. Everything else is covered 100% for medical (dental and vision are a little more complicated to explain here). I know many other people “in the private sector” who have similiar healthcare plans as we do. Therefor, for all the talk about what great benefits teachers have – I have to disagree.

    Also, I have to wonder, when it comes to this new 3% that will be taken out of a teachers paycheck for retirement, will this money go into an insured fund or one that the employee controls? Or, will our wonderful Florida legislature and Crook governor be able to get their slimey hands on it and lose it ala Bernie Madoff. I have not found where it was clear exactly where that 3% of a teachers income would go and who would take care of it.

  14. Lin says:

    Liz, I don’t disagree that these problems exist and as a parent, and grandparent I KNOW ABOUT THEM without being physically present in the classroom. These issues need to be dealt with in the schools no matter what the parents are doing. Saying “the parents, the parents, the parents” doesn’t help the kids. Kids don’t pick their parents — my parents weren’t available, my husband’s parents immigrants who didn’t speak English. But teachers still have to teach. The amount of work sent home for the parents to “help” with is not reasonable. The kids should be learning in school. You don’t have to be a parent to see the failure of our education system. Teachers do absolutely need the support of the Administration in these disciplinary issues. Seems like they are not getting it. I’m concerned about these policy decisions and the School Board and Administration.

    Discipline is super-important – my husband taught in private schools with uniforms. Children not dressed properly for school are sent to the principal’s office and a call is made to their home. Some of the problems teachers encounter (I know, it is only my opinion) can be helped by throwing out the riff raff, not promoting those who cannot or will not do the minimum required by a grade. Why pass children that cannot read, or do simple math, or don’t know how many States there are or CANNOT SOLVE SIMPLE REASONING PROBLEMS? But not every kid should be aiming for college — John Fisher had some good suggestions of alternative educational goals such as trade schools. I hope there is follow-through on those ideas.

  15. rukiddingme says:

    Liz,

    Are you kidding when you said:

    “Personally, I have always pushed my children to be in the advanced classes because, for the most part, these children come from families who care and disipline their children.”

    I don’t know where you get your information from but that is the furthest from the truth, and I do KNOW first hand. I work with ALOT of good kids who have good parents who do care about their kids education and future. I WORK with kids who have parents who bust their tails paying for tutoring for their kids because they do CARE. I also have “advanced” students who don’t have their parents to “push” them and “discipline” them like you think. They are on their “own.” I guess YOUR next observation is “if a parent doesn’t make six figures then they don’t care about their child(rens) future.”

    Just because you “volunteer” doesn’t make you a “professional.”

  16. Lin says:

    Liz, regarding your comments about insurance — my insurance (single, just for me) is $1179/month) and no optical & no dental. My husband stopped paying when the prices became prohibitive. My son, who works in the private sector, does not get ANY employer insurance help despite a college education.

    As far as where the money is going (3% of retirement funds), I guess it is going to the same place it was b4 teachers had skin in the game.

    Prove I’m wrong. Where do you get your information? I’m not going to play that game. I did lots of investigations of insurance plans.

  17. dlf says:

    Lin: well said ,to the point and without a lot of BS. The problem is big enough for all of to take part of the blame. However the teachers, school board and the teachers union do not see it that way. Their answer is more money without be accountable in part for the results, cannot have it both ways .

  18. Liz McLaughlin says:

    Lin, You make some valid points and some of them even bear out what I’m saying. You mention your parents weren’t available; neither were mine (both parents had some serious problems but it would take to much time to go into here). However, I learned many life lessons. We play the cards we are dealt. Suffice it to say, I went to school (private, like your husband’s, with uniforms :), was a good student and went to college, had a career, married and now have 3 wonderful children. I would never have thought to talk back to the teacher or do any one of a number of things some kids do today (and I am sure you wouldn’t have either). You and I know school and society was much different then. Now, the schools have to handle students with kid gloves.

    Your other comment about your husband coming from an immigrant family is very interesting. It has been my observation in our Flagler schools over the past 12 years that immigrant children often rise to the top of their class. I was in a 3rd grade inclusion/ese class helping a boy from one of the new soviet countries who barely spoke english. I met him again 2 years later and he spoke better english then most kids his age and was now in a regular more advanced class! Also, several of the valedictorians and/or salutatorians as well as those in the top 10% at FPC during my own children’s time there were formerly from soviet or asian countries. You can probably figure out what I am getting at here and my feelings on this and may even agree.

    As to your idea of throwing out the riff-raff, I heartedly agree! But this is EXACTLY the problem that the teachers have. The administration has to decide whether they want the students to meet the sunshine standards in order to be promoted or whether they want the students promoted even if they continue to fail year after year. And I am with you on alternative ideas for schools. There is nothing wrong with training students for a specific trade. Agree – not every student should go to college. But please, let’s train them to do SOMETHING!

    As to the insurance issue, I guess it’s the luck of the draw. I don’t know – it all seems arbitrary. I sympathize with your plight re your ins. cost and also your sons. We are very fortunate. My own children who are college grads have found employment that includes insurance comparable to what we have. They both are out of state, if that makes any difference – idk. My point, regarding the teacher insurance is that, in my opinion, having to pay $800 a month out of a salary of $39,000 a year with a family of 5 is alot. It seems like many people in the general public think the teachers have it made; I do not think so.

    Thanks for the discussion. I try to keep an open mind and appreciate your thoughts.

  19. Liz McLaughlin says:

    ruk,
    All I can say is hah, hah, hah regarding your 6 figure comment. You are ridiculous in your assertions. And by the way, I am a professional. As the kids say, ROFLOL

  20. Liana G says:

    I certainly hope the kids today are going to be different than the kids of long ago and not so long ago! Heck, it’s those kids/now adults who are responsible for the crappy state of our economy, not these kids! Children are not robots! We cannot exdpect children to be crticial thinkers and achieve higher order thinking yet expect them to remain docile. These kids are not what’s wrong with education today. It’s the quality of the education and those individuals gaming the system!

  21. Innocentbystander says:

    Liz,

    As I read through these posts, I have to say that I agree with your observations completely. I too have a personal connection to the classrooms without being a teacher myself. While there will always be great teachers, good teachers and not so very good teachers, the truth is that there are an overwhelming amount of children that are products of home lives that don’t instill respect, discipline, motivation and simple appreciation for other human beings, let alone teachers and education. There are many examples of children that are not only “un-teachable” but negatively affect the teacher’s ability to teach the other students in the class.

    On that note, the FCAT results probably better describe the status of the children attending those schools rather than the efforts of the school and its teachers. That may not be PC but it’s unfortunately the truth.

  22. Liana G says:

    @ Innocentbystander

    “the truth is that there are an overwhelming amount of children that are products of home lives that don’t instill respect, discipline, motivation and simple appreciation for other human beings, let alone teachers and education. ”

    Really???? And who, pray tell, educated the parents of these children? Now, since Palm Coast IS predominantly white, I’m glad to see this is not a race issue since you said “overwhelming amount of children”. However, Palm Coast is predominantly poor and research shows that it is the children of the middle class and upper who are actually raised to question authority (questioning authority is not disrespectful), so I’m glad to see that the poor kids of Palm Coast are modeling good peer behavior. Also, respect must be earned, and to command respect one must know how to give respect.

    “There are many examples of children that are not only “un-teachable”. WHOA!!!!

  23. JimmyJohn says:

    Way to go Heritage! Thirty percent of your third graders passed their FCAT. Way to take your low scores from last year and lower the already pitiful standard. Your sister school in Volusia did an equally stellar job!

  24. Liz McLaughlin says:

    innocentbystander: Glad to see you have been a personal witness to what actually goes on in the classrooms of Flager County. Of course, as you said, there is a mixture of talent in the teachers of our county. But overall, from what I have seen and experienced firsthand, we have a wonderful, dedicated, highly qualified group of educators who “respect” and care for our children. Unfortunately when we try to explain the reality of the behavior of a large percentage of children in these classroms, the response of many people (as we have seen respond on this web page) remind me of the classic line from the movie A FEW GOOD MEN: “You want the truth! You can’t handle the truth!”

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