It’s not a surprise: just 59 percent of third graders in Flagler County scored a satisfactory level 3 or better on the Florida Standards Assessment in reading last schoolyear, a nine-point drop from 2019, the last time the tests were administered, and one point below the six-year low of 60 in 2015. (There was no test in 2020 because of the pandemic.)
The lower scores were expected: Just 78 percent of third graders attended school in person last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The rest attended through the remote-live option or through virtual school. Lack of face-to-face interaction with teachers was documented to have a negative effect on students’ performances. “It’s not like our teachers forgot how to teach,” Jason Wheeler, the district’s spokesperson said today. Parents, students and the district could take a little solace in the fact that Flagler still exceeded the state average by five points. The state average itself fell by four points over the previous testing group.
St. Johns County schools was by far and away the most successful district, with 78 percent of third graders at a 3 or better. No other district so much as broke the 70 percent mark.
“I believe this shows how important face-to-face instruction is for our students,” Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt said in a release. “Just 78% of our 3rd graders were physically in a classroom this past spring. Fortunately, we have identified students in need of additional supports, and many of them are now taking part in our Summer Reading Program.” Some 1,000 students are currently enrolled in that program.
But it wasn’t a given that the remote options meant lower scores. If anything, it was the reverse: Statewide, 60 percent of virtual and 56 percent of so-called innovative students (like Flagler’s remote-live option) achieved a 3 or better, while 54 percent of in-person students did. And more students–23 percent–scored a Level 1 while attending school in person than learning remote (only 17 percent of those learning through virtual school did, and 21 percent of those learning live-remote did.)
Level 5 means “mastery”–the student is “highly likely to excel in the next grade,” according to a description of the five levels by the Floirida Department of Education. Level 4, “proficient,” means the student is likely to excel. Level 3 is mere proficiency: the student “may need additional support for the next grade.” Level 2 is “below satisfactory,” requiring substantial support for the next grade. And Level 1 is “inadequate,” with the student “highly likely to need substantial support for the next grade.”
There were significant disparities within the Flagler district. Seventy percent of students at Belle Terre Elementary were at a 3 or above, but just 42 percent were proficient at Bunnell Elementary, where 30 percent scored a 1. At Old Kings Elementary, 67 percent were at a 3 or better. Old Kings had the highest proportion of students scoring a 5, at 12 percent (Belle Terre was at 9 percent). Imagine at Town Center, the charter school, saw 59 percent of its students scoring a 3 or better. Rymfire was at 56, and Wadsworth at 55. In iFlagler, 68 percent of the 44 students who took the test scored a 3 or better.
LaShakia Moore, Flagler Schools incoming Director of Teaching and Learning says the district is already addressing the challenges some of our students face following the 2020-21 school year. “With our students back in our buildings,” she said, “I am confident that through explicit, systematic instruction and progress monitoring implemented by our highly qualified educators, our students will regain the momentum we experienced pre-Covid.”
Statewide in 2021, African American and Hispanic student performance at Level 3 and above decreased by 3 percentage points (54 to 51 and 40 to 37), respectively), while white student performance decreased by 4 percentage points (71 to 67).