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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Here it is


The Florida Department of Education released FCAT results for fourth- through 10th-graders in reading, math and science. The general trends remained upward. Science continued to be of particular concern, as no grade level had a 50 percent passing rate. The department's admission that it had to recalculate last year's third-grade reading FCAT scores obscured much of the rest of the news about the data put out Wednesday. Check back in the morning for the full report from the state and local perspective. To see the news and to get links to tables, web sites and statements as they came out today, read on.

4:55 p.m. update: Here's the teachers union statement on the FCAT scoring situation. And a statement from Jeb Bush, too.

3:10 p.m. update: Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg has put out her statement on the third-grade reading score problem. Click here to read it. As for today's results, the school by school outcomes are at the state web site here. (Sorry, we can't do justice to all the hundreds of schools on this blog site.)

2 p.m. update: Folks are now weighing in on the FCAT scoring problems that became the news of the day at the commissioner's press conference. House Democrats praised DOE for its candor, but raised the caution flag that what happened once can happen again. "This is solid proof that we need to rethink our misguided overemphasis on the FCAT," leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami, said. Read the release here. Bob Schaeffer, the public education director of Fair Test, raised the inevitable question in an e-mail to Ron Matus: "Floridians also need to know whether 2006 scores were manipulated to make outgoing Governor Jeb Bush and his signature education program look good." To read his full remarks, click here.

12:30 p.m. update: First, here's the link to Ron Matus' story giving more details on the FCAT scoring snafu. Before heading over there, here's a bit more information about the rest of today's results. The achievement gap among the races narrowed in math, but widened in reading and science. The sole exception - African-American middle school students in reading. Science, which counts for the first time toward school grades this year, posted minor gains but remained below 40 percent passing rate. It remains a targeted curriculum area for next year. Could those low results be attributed to low reading levels? Without committing to a yes or no, DOE spokeswoman Jennifer Fennell said: "Obviously (reading) is a core skill that students need to succeed anywhere." Parents should be able to check on the FCAT Parent Network for individual student scores on Friday. And school grades might be delayed a week or so from the usual late June release because of this whole third-grade score issue. 

11:15 a.m. update: The big news out of the DOE press conference had little to do with this year's scores. Rather, it was an admission that last year's third-grade FCAT reading results were incorrect. Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg said the department will be rescoring all 204,000 results in the next week, and from here on out, the department will fully audit the test and the results each year. Within moments, USF ed prof and accountability doubter Sherman Dorn released a statement blasting the state for relying too heavily on the FCAT. "High stakes accountability has created no miracle in Florida," Dorn said. "We need a saner system of accountability." Read his full statement here. Stay tuned for more details.

10:25 a.m. update: Here's math, as promised. Math scores in our area school districts also tracked with the state trends. Pinellas had gains in three of seven grades, with mostly small fluctuations in the percentages scoring at Level 3 (passing) or above. Notably, seventh graders jumped 7 percentage points, to 62 percent at Level 3 or better. Hillsborough also had three grade levels show improvement, with two remaining flat.  Pasco saw higher passing rates in five grades, while Hernando had jumps in four. Of note in Hernando, seventh graders had a six percentage point increase, to 62 percent passing, while ninth and sixth graders had dips of 18 and 8 points, respectively, to 53 percent and 45 percent at Level 3 or higher. (To link to the reports released so far, go to the bottom of this post. To visit the state web site on FCAT, click here.)

10:06 a.m. update: We're still waiting on the 10 a.m. press conference. In the meantime, here's what we found about local reading scores. (Math and science to follow shortly.)

Reading scores for Tampa Bay-area school districts largely reflected statewide trends. Pinellas showed gains in six of seven grades, with its eighth graders up six percentage points from last year, to 53 percent. Hillsborough, on the other hand, showed gains in four of seven grades, with the same percentage of seventh and ninth graders passing as last year, and sixth graders down a point. In Pasco, five of seven grades were up, with fourth graders up an impressive seven points. And in Hernando, eighth graders made the most progress, up seven points.

9:35 a.m. update: Reading and math scores showed modest gains in most grades this year, according to FCAT results released this morning. Meanwhile, all three grades tested in science showed gains, with big jumps coming for fifth and eighth graders. The latest results include math and reading scores for grades four through ten, and science scores for fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders.

Statewide, the percentage of students who passed the FCAT in reading increased in every grade but sixth, where 62 percent of students passed, down from 64 percent last year. This year's fifth graders made the biggest strides, with 72 percent passing, up five percentage points from last year. In math, all but two grades showed gains. Only 50 percent of seventh graders passed the math FCAT, down from 53 percent last year. And the percentage of tenth graders passing remained stagnant at 65 percent. The science scores, while up, remain troubling. Only 42 percent of fifth graders, 38 percent of eighth graders and 37 percent of eleventh graders passed the science FCAT, which will be incorporated into the state's school grading formula for the first time this year.

First report: Good morning, FCAT enthusiasts. We have the latest numbers in hand, a short 50 minutes before Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg is to field reporter questions about what they reveal. Scramble through the numbers with us, if you like, by clicking here for science, here for reading and here for math. And here's the press release. (If this is any hint, they lead by talking about gains since 2001.)

If you have the time, shoot over your findings and thoughts to guide us. We already will be looking at whether last year's high-scoring third graders remained stellar fourth graders (some think the 2005-06 reading test had problems and have called for an audit, according to this Miami Herald report). Anything else come to mind? We'd love to hear from you, as we've had more time to deal with fewer numbers in past releases. And check back throughout the day for updates.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:17am]


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