As in much of the state, reading scores for Flagler County’s third graders fell again this year, as they did last year, erasing pre-pandemic gains. Still, the scores were strong enough to have Flagler County tied with four other counties for 12th out of 67 counties, if with some caveats.
The percentage of Flagler County 3rd graders achieving a reading level of 3 (out of 5) or above–that is, reading at a satisfactory level–fell to 58 percent, the lowest level in at least seven years of comparable testing results, and down from last year’s 59 percent. Scores had peaked at 69 percent in 2017 and 68 percent in 2019, the year before the pandemic, which has affected school districts across the country.
There was no standardized testing in 2020. Schools were in full session in Flagler County all year in the 2021-22 school year, with no remote option (except for students enrolled through virtual school), but the earlier part of the year was disrupted by a surge in covid cases and the district’s faculty has been hampered by teacher retirements and a shortage of substitutes.
The state average fell to 53 percent of students at a satisfactory level of 3, down from 54 percent the year before and 58 percent before the pandemic. Most counties’ students lost ground, understanding that comparisons from year to year are fundamentally unfair in one regard: the test results naturally do not compare the same students, but different cohorts entirely. Still, in the aggregate, the reflect the strength (or weaknesses) of a system as a whole.
Achievement levels range from 1 (inadequate) and 2 (below satisfactory) to satisfactory (3), a level at which a student may need additional help in the next grade, to proficient (4) to mastery (5). Promotion to 4th grade normally requires a level 2 or better. But in 2021, the Department of Education issued an order permitting a series of waivers for public school students regarding exams, graduations and promotions. One of those waivers allowed the promotion of third graders who were not necessarily at level 2, but could be shown to have performed well enough for promotion through “other means reasonably calculated.” Those means were not defined.
Put another way: proficiency is attained only with a level 4 or better. At that level, just 23 percent of Flagler County’s third graders (211 out of 917 tested) were proficient, which dims the county’s achievement (or ranking) at least somewhat, since 77 percent of students in this year’s third-grade class will need at least some extra help next year in reading. Statewide, just 25 percent of students are proficient or better, a proportion that’s fluctuated from 25 to 30 percent over the past seven years.
Nevertheless, the state places its defining line at level 3 since placing it at 4 would ensure grim reports year after year.
The 160 students who tested at Old Kings Elementary averaged the highest scores, with 69 percent scoring a 3 and better, 9 percent scoring 5 and 20 percent scoring below 3.
The 19 students tested at iFlagler, the virtual option, tested higher, as virtual-school students tend to across the state, with 74 percent scoring at a level 3 or better, beating the state average of 64 percent for virtual school students.
Bunnell Elementary, which tested 176 students, had the lowest combined scores, with just 49 percent scoring 3 or better, 3 percent scoring 5, and 29 percent scoring below 3.
Rymfire’s 136 third graders and Wadsworth’s 113 both had 53 percent scoring at a 3 or better. Belle Terre Elementary’s 209 third graders had 62 percent at a 3 or better, and Imagine School at Town center, the charter school, had 59 percent of its 104 third graders score a 3 or better. Statewide, charter schools outperformed traditional schools by seven points in 2022, and have generally outperformed them by six to nine points over the past seven years of testing in the proportion of students at 3 or better.
Only nine counties managed to have between 60 and 69 percent of their students at a level 3 or better–Baker, Clay, Dixie, Nassau, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, Sumter and Walton–and only one broke the 70 percent barrier: St. Johns County, generally the premier education organization in the state, with 76 percent of its students clearing the hurdle, down two points from last year. At the lower end, just 19 percent of Jefferson County’s students scored a 3, and 27 percent of Gadsden’s.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Looks to me the state, the board of education and teachers are failing our children! Our future depends on them, yet nothing gets done. Parents take sometime to read to your kids. Listen to what they ask…Their little minds are absorbing everything! If the schools cant do the job, we have to step up, Your kids OUR future!
Been There says
Teachers are too busy breaking up fights, preparing for potential mass shootings, and classroom management. If parents aren’t doing their jobs in the first place, the problem is not the teachers. Teachers hands are tied by the School Board, both State and local.
So much tension in the world today. Do we really expect the children to give their best when taking a test? Do the Repub. politicians have anything to do with the falling scores? I would say yes because the Repubs. run the state and Flagler County. O.k. Dems. yall the Repubs. gave yall another campaign chip 🍟. Please use it wisely.
Grey man says
Imagine if schools focused on true learning rather than gender studies and CRT. This is not unexpected.
Been There says
“Gender studies” aren’t being taught and neither is CRT. That’s GOP rhetoric regurgitation. Keep drinking the kool-aid.
Really, we have the most well-rounded, resourceful learners of all time. Maybe the curriculum should be updated. Soon reading will be negotiable. We all have “talk to text” and audio read now.
Deborah Coffey says
Schools and teachers are completely focused on “true learning.” There are NO gender studies and CRT taught in any school in the entire United States of America. I taught in them for 28 years and was an Asst. Principal in charge of curriculum. I can’t imagine what it feels like to admit publicly that one is so easily misled by lies and propaganda. Perhaps it IS time for all schools to teach, from kindergarten on, how to tell a LIE from the TRUTH.
Teresa Kvachuk says
There was an enlightening article in The New Yorker today about how Covid has affected children of all ages. And, we don’t know much about long-haulers yet.
Merrill Shapiro says
It’s not entirely true that Flagler 3rd Graders’ Reading Scores Fall Again, to Lowest Level in 7 Years, Yet Rank 12th in State. What is true is that Flagler Public Schools 3rd Graders’ Reading Scores Fall Again, to Lowest Level in 7 Years, Yet Rank 12th in State!
The difference is important in helping everyone understand that this outcome is just one more sad result of our government’s war on public education!
It might be worth looking at teaching phonics vs sight words again. It made a world of difference in my childrens lives.
When I recently left the elementary classroom, phonics and phonemic awareness were taught in conjunction with sight words, and contemporary, scientifically based strategies (albeit by another name). Whole Language exclusively instruction was short lived and went out decades ago. While some students were able to achieve with Whole Language instruction, all were not. Additionally, many elementary achievers began to struggle at the higher grades, when bombarded by subject specific vocabulary which necessitated sounding out to even begin accessing their listening vocabularies. Fear not, elementary educators still value phonetic skills instruction. And yes, it does have a profound impact on many learners, but there are other skills to be learned, and it could be about finding the perfect balance for each child.
Deborah Coffey says
Keep voting for Republicans, Flagler County. You’ll have the dumbest kids in the world!
“But in 2021, the Department of Education issued an order permitting a series of waivers for public school students regarding exams, graduations and promotions. One of those waivers allowed the promotion of third graders who were not necessarily at level 2, but could be shown to have performed well enough for promotion through “other means reasonably calculated.” Those means were not defined.”
That would be an interesting study to do ? Do 3rd graders reading skills improve with the banned books ? I don’t think it really matters myself, a book is a book. They don’t read very well with the books they already have ? So more books is naturally going to improve children’s reading & comprehension skills. Maybe if their parents would stop dealing Fentanyl, their kids might be better educated ? In Biden’s America children go without formula, when has that ever happened in Biden’s 50 years of getting things done.
I’m not going to blame Republicans here. I was born and raised in this state, and we have had both Republican and Democratic governors.
Growing up, Florida had three priorities: citrus, beef and tourism. Unfortunately, education was never a high priority. People were always migrating, en mass, to this state continuously straining resources. The citrus and beef industries eventually sold out to subdivisions. Hardly a grove left. More and more schools were built to replace the overflowing portable classrooms, and more and more people came.
Being a Jack of all trades, one of my jobs, in the 8o’s was as a substitute teacher. I can tell you that a teaching job is a really hard job. Kids, back then, from grades first through third, were sweethearts. From the fourth grade on, they were often mouthy, rude and depressed. Kids in the poorer neighborhoods had more difficulty than did the wealthier kids. Now days, kids have to be concerned with their parents’ reactions to covid, politics and possibly getting killed. The boundless growth continues. Who can keep up with all this constantly? How are kids able to concentrate?
You couldn’t pay me enough to teach today.
Wow! So many question marks, so little questions! Lmao!
Be careful what you wish for says
Let’s address the elephant in the room, leadership. Belle Terre has always been a model school until a change in leadership. Say what you please about Dr. Culver but his numbers were never low. Mrs. De Ford took a great school and ran it to the ground. Low as whale boo boo. All she had to do was follow the template. SMH.