Friday, May 25, 2018

Third-grade reading scores on FSA exam fall in 2018

Leslie Postal Orlaond Sentinel May 25, 2018

Florida third graders in 2018 did worse on the key state reading exam than counterparts last year, a trend in FSA scores seen across Central Florida, too.

Florida third graders scored slightly worse on the key state reading exam this year compared with counterparts in 2017, a trend seen across Central Florida, too, according to data released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education.

Fifty seven percent of third graders scored at grade level or better on the language arts section of the Florida Standards Assessments exam, or FSA. Last year, 58 percent scored that well, earning a 3 or better on the five-level test. Despite the dip, this year’s percentage is still higher than the 53 percent doing well in 2015, the first year FSA was administered.

Scores for the state, districts and schools are available on the education department website. Parents of the 221,469 third graders who took the exam should hear from their children’s schools soon about how they did.

The department posted the results on its website without comment and also sent them to school districts, which need the results to make promotion and retention decisions as the school year winds up. The results were released slightly later than last year’s but still ahead of the May 31 deadline set in law. Florida pushed back testing this year in part because of the days schools lost early in the academic year to Hurricane Irma.

Local administrators said they could not yet explain the dip in scores but noted one-year fluctuations are not unusual. Still, they said they will be reviewing the data, looking in particular for schools that bucked the trend and made gains this year, as they may offer lessons that can be replicated on other campuses.

“Now is the time to dig a little deeper,” said Anna-Marie Cote, Seminole’s deputy superintendent.

Under Florida’s controversial third-grade retention law, students who score very poorly on the FSA language arts exam — earning a level 1 — could be held back and barred from fourth grade. Statewide, 20 percent scored at level 1 this year.

That means more than 44,200 youngsters face being held back, but typically about half the students with level 1 scores move to fourth grade anyway. They either meet one of the retention law’s exemptions or prove their reading skills on another test, often after attending a summer “reading camp.”

The percentage of public school students scoring well on the third-grade exam fell in Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in 2018 compared to last year. The percentage scoring at least a 3 on the test: 61 percent in Lake down from 63 percent; 55 percent in Orange down from 57 percent; 51 percent in Osceola down from 53 percent; and 65 percent in Seminole down from 68 percent.

Seminole administrators said they were pleased they remained the top-ranked district in Central Florida and the top among the state’s largest school districts. Lake administrators said they were pleased they were ahead of the state average, as they have been for the past several years.

The bulk of the scores from Florida’s 2018 testing season — which includes language arts, math, science and social studies exams — are due out by June 30. They form the basis of the A-to-F grades given annually to the state’s public schools.