With a dramatic drop in the state's writing scores earlier this week, many schools were braced for a bruising with the release of high school reading results.
That didn't happen.
Larger percentages of Florida's ninth- and 10th-graders earned a passing score of 3 or better on the FCAT reading exam this year than they did a year ago, according to results released Friday. That's despite complaints by superintendents across Florida that a higher "cut" score would lead to increased failures and more time and money spent on remedial work.
Early numbers show that 52 percent of ninth-graders and 50 percent of 10th-graders scored 3 or higher on the reading exam, up from 48 percent and 39 percent, respectively, a year ago. The reading test is scored on a 5-point scale.
In the Tampa Bay area, results were mixed across the school districts.
Pasco County's ninth- and 10th-graders exceeded the state passing rate, with 54 percent of freshmen and 51 percent of sophomores making a passing mark. Pinellas County's ninth-graders beat the state average, with 54 percent earning a 3 or above. The county's 10th-graders fell below the state, with 49 percent hitting the mark.
In Hillsborough County, freshmen were just below the state passing rate and sophomores were slightly above, according to the state results. Half of the county's ninth-graders earned a 3 or higher, while 51 percent of 10th-graders did.
Hernando County's ninth-graders improved their scores and exceeded the state rate, with 57 percent earning a 3 or above. Its 10th-graders dropped a percentage point and fell below the state, with 49 percent meeting the mark.
"We are asking more from our students and teachers than we ever have, and I am proud of their hard work," Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said in a release. "Florida's higher standards help ensure students are learning what they are expected to know so that they are prepared for college, career, and life. As Florida transitions to higher standards and higher expectations, we can expect our assessment results to reflect those changes."
The reading results stand in stark contrast to the state's FCAT writing scores, which were so poor that the State Board of Education this week decided to reduce the passing level from 4 to 3 on the six-point scale.
Statewide, the average writing score was 3.3 for fourth grade, 3.3 for eighth grade and 3.4 for 10th grade. That translated into only about one-third of students across Florida passing the writing test.
Amid complaints from parents and educators, the board decreased the passing score so that the percentage of students showing proficiency rose to 81 percent in fourth grade, 78 percent in eighth grade and 84 percent in 10th grade.
In the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough schools exceeded the state performance in all three grade levels. Pinellas outperformed the state in fourth grade and 10th grade, Pasco schools were above the state average in 10th grade only, while Hernando schools scored below the state level in all three grades.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.