A week after releasing writing scores for various grades, the Florida Department of Education released critical 3rd grade FCAT scores today–critical, because 3rd grade reading scores determine whether a student moves on to 4th grade or not.
Out of 988 students who took the test in Flagler County, 130, or 13 percent, scored only a 1 on a scale of 5, and will be held back, absent improvements in summer reading school, which the district offers free. “If they don’t take part in summer reading then we have to retain,” says Shawn Schmidli, the district’s assessment coordinator. Last year, 109 students scored a 1.
An additional 247 students, or one out of four, scored only a 2 on the reading portion of the exam. Those students will move on to 4th grade, but will be enrolled in an intensive reading class. The number of students scoring a 2 this year more than doubles the proportion of students who scored a 2 last year. That’s because the state has toughened the standards on the FCAT.
It also explains the precipitous decline in scores overall for Flagler students, only 62 percent of whom scored a 3 or better in reading or math, a decline from last year’s 78 percent in both disciplines. But the comparison must take into account the tougher standards. “It’s harder for students to earn a 3 this year than it has been in the past. We’re not making an apples to apples comparison,” Schmidli said.
On the slightly brighter side, Flagler County continues to outperform the state average of 58 percent passing with a 3 or better in math, and 56 percent in reading. “I keep looking at the fact that we’re continuing to outperform the state,” Schmidli said. “We understand that the standard has been changed so the best way to make sense out of all of them is to compare our results with the state as well as other counties.”
Still, when ranking Flagler County’s results only against this year’s results in other counties, Flagler does not quite glitter, coming in 19th in reading and 23rd in math. The leading county is again St. Johns in reading, with 75 percent of its 2,329 students passing with a 3 or better, followed by Santa Rosa and Seminole, with 72 and 70 percent respectively.
In math, Calhoun County and Union County are first, with 74 percent at the proficient level of 3 or better, followed by St. Johns, with 73 percent. Seminole is also in the top five, with 71 percent at 3 or better. The Seminole scores are notable this year only because Flagler County school board members pointed to Seminole as a model district when they decided to convert Flagler schools to a stricter dress code, which Seminole follows. Seminole officials attribute their standardized test scores’ improvements, in part, to their dress code. The attribution is not verified scientifically: it is merely an observable correlation. But it adds fuel to the arguments of uniform advocates.
Looking at schools individually, this year’s reading champions in 3rd grade are the students of Old Kings Elementary, a cool 70 percent of whom managed a 3 or better, besting traditional winner Belle Terre Elementary by three points and Imagine, the charter school, by five.
In math, the champions are again Belle Terre’s 3rd graders, 74 percent of whom are proficient. They’re followed by Old Kings, with 66 percent, and Wadsworth Elementary with 60 percent.
Schmidli stressed that the more difficult standards are necessary, especially as Florida makes its way toward national assessments in a few years, when the FCAT will be abandoned. Those national tests will be more difficult, essentially eliminating individual states’ ability to be self-satisfied with their own results, absent broader comparisons and more uniform standards.
The complete reading and math scores going back four years in Flagler County schools are charted below.
Mired in another series of FCAT-related fiascoes this year, Gov. Rick Scott’s office and the Department of Education have been on an intense public relations drive to spin the story as brightly as possible.
“When the State Board of Education set higher achievement levels for FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics in December,” a Department of Education news release reads, “they were acting on recommendations from Florida’s educators, parents and the community and data showing the impact of the new achievement levels on students and schools. Today’s results for Florida’s third graders proved those estimates to be almost on target for both reading and math. While comparing actual year over year scores is difficult because of differences in the way this year’s and last year’s results are reported, impact data comparisons show third graders did slightly higher than estimated in math and slightly lower than estimated in reading.”
“The future success of third grade students depends on mastering essential reading skills,” said Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson. “Today’s results help us determine how and where we should focus our resources so students who are struggling with reading get the extra help they need to succeed. Whether we’re preparing a child for college, career training or the workplace, they must have the fundamentals of reading to be successful.”
2010 3rd FCAT Scores By School and By Achievement Level
|% at Level 1||% at Level 2||% at Level 3||% at Level 4||% at Level 5||% at 3 or Better|
|Flagler School District|
|Belle Terre Elementary|
|Old Kings Elementary|
|Heritage Academy (Private Charter)|
|Imagine (Private Charter)|