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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

How will Florida elementary schools deal with third grade retention decisions?



Never mind the validity reviews and cut scores. Florida elementary schools will know which third graders are at risk of retention, based on their state language arts test performance, by early June, education commissioner Pam Stewart told superintendents on Wednesday.

School leaders had expressed concern after Stewart announced two weeks ago that results would not be available until winter.

But Stewart has now clarified that the Department of Education will inform school districts which children landed in the bottom 20 percent on the Florida Standards Assessment in June, so they can make appropriate arrangements for the children, whether summer remedial work, retention or promotion. New state law leaves it up to schools to decide whether to have the children repeat the grade.

Third graders took the FSA exam on paper, so troubles with the state's computerized testing should not factor into the outcomes, deputy commissioner Juan Copa said. The department already will have conducted two independent validity reviews of the test, although not the third called for by lawmakers, so the results should be fairly secure, DOE spokeswoman Meghan Collins added.

Because the law no longer mandates retention, districts are now figuring out how to have uniform decisions throughout their elementary school systems. The law says they can use portfolios and alternate test scores, among other options, to help determine a student's next assignment.

Pinellas and Pasco officials said they are still discussing models for retention. Hillsborough was further along.

"The state has let districts know that they can come up with their own process," Hillsborough spokesman Steve Hegarty said. "We'll be using results on the Stanford (achievement test), since we're not sure how quickly we'll get FSA results."

The third grade at-risk information will come to districts along with lists of students who passed their 10th grade language arts and Algebra I state tests, both of which are graduation requirements, Copa said. 

"The actual results will not be released until the validity study is complete," he added.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 3:20pm]


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