Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Test scores show little improvement statewide as FCAT's final chapter nears

Florida schools received the first scores from the state's final round of FCAT testing on Friday, showing little overall improvement from 2013.

Third-graders, who can be held back a year if they score at the lowest level in reading, had the same 57 percent proficiency rate in reading as a year ago.

Nineteen percent, or just under 40,000, logged in at Level 1. They also maintained a flat 58 percent passing rate in math.

Writing results for fourth grade dipped slightly, while ticking up incrementally for eighth- and 10th-graders.

In the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough County was the only district to move the needle significantly on reading and math. Fifty-nine percent of the district's third-graders scored proficient in reading — up three points from last year. Hillsborough third-graders also jumped two points in math while their peers in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties showed little or no gains.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said she was "highly encouraged" that students maintained gains achieved over the past two years, even as their schools have begun moving to new, more difficult standards.

The Florida Standards, a slightly changed version of the Common Core State Standards, will be fully implemented when schools reopen in August. State officials also are working on a new test to go with the standards, ending a 15-year era when the FCAT was the centerpiece of Florida's school accountability system.

The very last results from the 2013-14 FCAT are due out in coming weeks, including additional test scores and school grades.

District leaders on Friday parsed through the latest numbers for good news and bad. There was plenty of both.

In Hernando County, most of the district's elementary and K-8 schools saw their third-grade reading and math scores drop. But a bright spot came from the district's only F-rated school, Eastside Elementary.

The number of Eastside third-graders scoring proficient in reading jumped 14 points, while the percentage of students hitting the mark in math rose by 11 points. Eastside ticked up one percentage point in writing — one of the few elementary and K-8 schools to see a jump.

Several districts paid close attention to their "turnaround" schools, those that had several consecutive years of D or F grades and were forced to overhaul their operations.

Pinellas County had five such schools. But one year after some principals were replaced and staffs were turned over, the turnaround schools were not all pictures of success.

Melrose Elementary saw a 14 percentage-point increase on the writing test taken by its fourth-graders. But its performance dropped by double digits in both reading and math.

Azalea Middle, meanwhile, had the most cause for celebration, as the percent of students passing the writing test jumped from 27 to 40 percent. Principal Connie Kolosey said the F school is now gunning to become a C.

Teachers received extra training this year, and used a common planning period to evaluate students' writing strengths and weaknesses, then divide the students into specialized groups.

"They were able to motivate the kids," Kolosey said. "We can do all kinds of work, but if we can't motivate the kids to work hard when the time comes, then it doesn't matter what else we do."

Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning said he was pleasantly surprised to see that Lacoochee Elementary, where he made "dramatic and drastic changes," saw its writing and math passing rates double, and its reading rate hold steady. He had worried that the shake-up would cause declines.

Even so, he said he was not ready to forge ahead with similar revamps at other schools where persistently poor outcomes appeared to continue. Instead, Browning expressed hope the move to new standards and tests would help stabilize the schools.

He noted that math, reading and writing will become more closely integrated, eliminating the option of focusing on one subject to the detriment of others. For example, students might read detailed math problems and then write longer answers, rather than simply compute equations.

"We will teach the whole thing as a package," Browning said. "The new standards are going to be better for our kids."

Commissioner Stewart said all students should have had a curriculum based on both current and future academic standards, so they "should have been prepared for this assessment."

That proved true for Just Elementary in Tampa, which saw a 34-point jump in writing proficiency over 2013.

Still, principal Carolyn Hill, who is about to retire, viewed the outcome with a jaundiced eye. She said she has never approved of high-stakes tests, especially at a school such as Just, whose students are among the poorest in the district.

"I've never felt that was fair, but then life isn't fair," she said. "I tell my students, you have to play the game of life, no matter what hand you're dealt. There are so many things that are not graded that make a school successful. Even when the scores are not great, my kids are wonderful."

Times staff writers Danny Valentine, Marlene Sokol and Lisa Gartner contributed to this report. Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at

FCAT results, by county

Hernando: Many elementary and K-8 schools struggled on the writing test; six dropped by more than 15 percentage points. Pine Grove Elementary saw the biggest single jump, increasing 40 percentage points on third-grade reading.

Hillsborough: Fourth-graders showed the highest writing scores in the state while eighth-graders had the highest scores in the Tampa Bay area. Results were mixed at the district's four F-rated schools and most encouraging at its only F-rated charter school. Woodmont Charter's third-grade proficiency rose 16 points in reading and 29 points in math.

Pasco: Lacoochee Elementary saw improvement in math and writing, while Hudson Elementary declined in writing, reading and math. Both are turnaround schools. Athenian Academy, a D-rated charter school, saw strong gains in math and reading, but not writing.

Pinellas: Eight elementary schools, including three turnaround schools, showed double-digit increases in fourth-grade writing. Sixteen elementary schools had 75 percent or more of their students achieving at grade level or above in reading. University Preparatory Academy, the newly opened charter school in Midtown St. Petersburg, saw 6 percent of third-graders pass the math test and 18 percent pass reading. Nine percent of fourth-graders showed proficiency in writing.

Test scores show little improvement statewide as FCAT's final chapter nears 05/23/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 23, 2014 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New World Brewery is closing. Where will all its concerts go now?


    Ever since it was announced that New World Brewery was closing its beloved Ybor City location and relocating to a spot farther north, there’s been an outpouring of nostalgia from artists, promoters and fans throughout the Tampa Bay music scene.

    Allison Weiss performed at New World Brewery in 2015.
  2. Farewell, New World Brewery: 11 Tampa music scene regulars toast a beloved venue


    It's hard to put into words what New World Brewery has meant to the Tampa music scene over the past 22 years.

    Matt Burke and Have Gun, Will Travel, shown performing at New World Brewery in 2009. Burke credits the venue with shaping how the band wanted to develop.
  3. Betsy DeVos rescinds Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault


    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said over and over again that sexual assault on campus is an issue she wants to get right.

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  4. In dollars: How valuable are Florida's university football programs?


    The University of Florida football program is valued in a new study at $682 million, making it the most valuable university team in the state but still worth far less than several college programs topping $1 billion. Four years ago, UF's program was valued at just under $600 million.

    The University of Florida football program is valued at  $682 million, making it the most valuable by far in the Sunshine State. Pictured are UF cheerleaders leading the crowd in a Gator cheer on Clearwater Beach last December during the Outback Bowl Beach Day on Clearwater Beach. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]