The Flagler County school district had a few results to celebrate as the Department of Education on Friday released FCAT writing scores for 4th, 8th and 10th graders and reading and math scores for third graders.
School officials are especially pleased with the results because they show improvements despite a combination of toughening standards and a change in testing methods that have particularly challenged teachers in the last few years. “That’s why we’re overwhelmed with pride for what our teachers are doing,” Superintendent Jacob Oliva said Friday. “It’s a true testament to their commitment.”
Flagler’s fourth graders ranked 6th in the state in writing, with 63 percent of fourth grader scoring a 3.5 or better, beating the state average by 10 points. The top performing county was Hillsborough, at 70 percent. The top performers were at Wadsworth Elementary, where 83 percent of students scored a 3.5 or better, followed by Belle Terre Elementary, where 73 percent of fourth graders scored a 3.5 or better. Imagine School at Town Center was last, with 33 percent of students scoring a 3.5 or better. Imagine is the publicly funded, privately run charter school.
That was the best result for fourth graders since the writing test began four years ago.
Flagler’s third grade students ranked 10th in the state in Reading, with 65 percent of students scoring a 3 or better, on a scale of 5. (St. Johns County was first in both cases, with 76 percent.) The reading scores declined slightly from last year, when 68 percent of students rated a 3 or better. But this year’s scores were well above the state average of 57 percent. The top performing school was, as always, Belle Terre Elementary (71 percent), followed by Old Kings Elementary (69) and Imagine School (69). Bunnell Elementary was lowest with 53.
In math, 63 percent of third graders scored a 3 or better, a significant improvement from last year’s 58 percent. Third graders beat the state average by five points. The top performing school in the district was Imagine School (69), followed by Belle Terre Elementary (68) and Old Kings and Wadsworth (67). Rymfire had a 59, and Bunnell, 51.
As in past years, results tend to weaken as students advance through higher grades. In eighth grade, district writing scores averaged a 59 percent passing or better rate, respectable enough to rank the district in the top third of counties, but still 18th overall, out of 67 districts. The 59 beats the state average by three points. Lafayette was the top performer, at 72 percent. Among district schools, 65 percent of Indian Trails Middle’s students scored at or above standard, 55 percent of Buddy Taylor Students did, and 49 percent of students at Imagine School. This year’s scores improved significantly over last year’s–by seven points.
The general improvements, Oliva said, are the result of a strategic approach by the district: with every batch of scores, officials analyze the results, identify weaknesses, and try to flood whatever zone needs improvement with additional resources. Among third-graders, for example, the number of students who scored a 1 on the reading portion of the test fell by five-a small number, but still an important reduction in the number of the least-performing students.
In 10th grade writing, Flagler ranks 25th, with a combined 63 percent of students scoring a 3.5 or better. (Union was tops in the state, with 76 percent.) There was quite a surprise in this year’s writing scores among 10th graders: Flagler Palm Coast High School beat Matanzas by three points, 64 to 61. But the district average of 64 was one point below the state average, even as it improved by six points over last year.
“They had a strong focus,” Oliva said of FPC. “It was an area they identified last year as something they were going to put some intense professional development and focus on, and they did that. It worked.”
The district’s Shawn Schmidly, coordinator for assessment and accountability, listed the following “notable improvements and highlights”:
Grade 3 FCAT Reading: BTES Improved in % proficient by 2% year-over-year (71% proficient in 2014 vs. 69% proficient in 2013)
- Grade 3 FCAT Reading: BTES Improved in percent proficient by 2 percent year-over-year (71 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 69 percent proficient in 2013)·
- Grade 3 FCAT Math: BES improved in percent proficient by 7 percent year-over-year (51 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 44 percent proficient in 2013)
- · Grade 3 FCAT Math: OKES improved in percent proficient by 10 percent year-over-year (67 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 57 percent proficient in 2013)
- · Grade 3 FCAT Math: WES improved in percent proficient by 7 percent year-over-year (67 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 60 percent proficient in 2013)
- · Grade 3 FCAT Math: ISTC improved in percent proficient by 15 percent year-over-year (69 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 54 percent proficient in 2013)
- · Grade 3 FCAT Math: Flagler County improved in percent proficient for FCAT Math by 5 percent where the state remained the same year-over-year
- · Grade 4 FCAT Writing: Flagler County maintained its percent proficient whereas the State of Florida (-4 percent), St. Johns (-16 percent), Volusia (-8 percent), and Putnam (-5 percent) all declined
- · Grade 4 FCAT Writing: OKES (+6 percent), BES (+10 percent), BTES (+2 percent), and RES (+4 percent) all improved their year-over-year proficiency rates
- · Grade 8 FCAT Writing: Flagler County improved in percent proficient for Grade 8 FCAT Writing by 10 percent vs. the State of Florida which only improved by 2 percent year-over-year
- · Grade 8 FCAT Writing: Indian Trails Middle School improved its percent proficiency by 17 percent year-over-year (65 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 48 percent proficient in 2013)
- · Grade 8 FCAT writing: Buddy Taylor Middle School improved its percent proficiency by 7 percent year-over-year (55 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 48 percent proficient in 2013)
- · Grade 10 FCAT Writing: FPCHS improved its percent proficiency by 10 percent year-over-year (64 percent proficient in 2014 vs. 54 percent proficient in 2013)
Next year, a new assessment based on the Florida Standards will replace the FCAT 2.0. The Florida Standards for mathematics and English language arts stress a broader approach for student learning, including an increased emphasis on analytical thinking. With the new and more rigorous standards, a new assessment was needed to measure student progress.
That means teachers and students have to get used to a new testing regimen altogether. It’ll also make comparing this year’s and previous years’ results to future years’ results difficult or impossible. “There’s definitely going to be some difficulties in comparing it,” Schmidli said. “There’s going to be a bit of a transition that we’re going to have to adapt to.”