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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Schools see solid jump in third-grade FCAT scores

Fcat_2 The latest third-grade FCAT results are out, and they bring good news: The Tampa Bay-area school districts and the state overall showed continued gains in both math and reading performance on the Sunshine State Standards.

In reading, 72 percent of third-graders earned a Level 3 or better on the five-point scale. That's up from 69 percent a year ago. In math, 76 percent reached Level 3 or better, up from 74 percent a year ago.

All four districts in the Tampa Bay area showed increases. Here are the passing percentages by district:

  • Pinellas: 72 percent in reading (up two points from last year) and 78 percent in math (up one point from last year)
  • Hillsborough: 71 percent in reading (up four points) and 74 in math (up two points)
  • Pasco: 72 percent in reading (up four points) and 69 percent in math (up one point)
  • Hernando: 76 percent in reading (up two points) and 78 percent in math (up two points)

By law, third-graders can be held back if they score at the lowest of five levels on the reading test – a requirement that applies to no other grade. This year's results show 16 percent of the state's 204,000 third graders – nearly 33,000 in all – will be retained unless they can prove their proficiency through other means, such as a portfolio.

The third-grade test has a spotty track record.

Last year's third-grade scores appeared to take a historic plunge one year after a historic spike. But then the Department of Education disclosed that the 2006 scores had been inflated by human error, meaning neither the spike nor the plunge had been real. In the aftermath, the DOE promised an annual, independent audit of the FCAT and appointed a high-profile committee to recommend other changes to the state's testing system.

The Florida DOE has announced that the FCAT Parent Network will be updated with individual student reports on Friday, May 23, at 6:00 AM. Also, Commissioner Eric J. Smith and other DOE officials plan to have a media briefing on the results at 12:30 p.m. today. We'll let you know what they say later.

In the meantime, take a look at the district-level breakdowns for reading here and math here. If you want to check all the results on the state Web site, click here.

UPDATE: Despite what happened with the 2006 test, Floridians should have confidence in this year's test results, Commissioner Smith at a just-concluded press conference. He pointed to the state's hiring of an outside expert, the Buros Institute at the University of Nebraska, to make recommendations on how to improve the making and scoring of the FCAT.

"All those have been put into place and have been part of our operation in this testing cycle," Smith said.

DOE officials said the institute reviewed this year's tests before results were released, and that a similar, independent review will be conducted every year.

- Ron Matus and Jeff Solochek

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:42am]


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