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.
- 2011 3rd Grade District Results (Excel)
- 2011 3rd Grade Results By School, 2007-2011 (Excel)
- FCAT Writing Results Are In: Big, and In Some Cases “Abnormal” Improvements
- Complete 3rd Grade 2010 FCAT Scores, School by School
- FCAT 2011: Stats, Graphs, Explanations
- FCAT Achievement Levels Explained
- FCAT Archives
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.”