In Hillsborough County, where reading skills are a school district priority, this year’s state data release delivered a mixed report.
The state of reading appears largely unchanged. The percentage of students testing at Level 3, which is considered grade level, rose by one percentage point, but so did the state level. As in 2018, Hillsborough remains a point behind the state in that measure, at 54 percent.
To measure the worst deficiencies, the Tampa Bay Times also calculates percentages of students who test at Level 1, which is the lowest of five and indicates the student is in need of intense intervention.
There, things also are about the same. Close to 24 percent of Hillsborough students in grades that take the Florida Standards Assessment scored at Level 1 this year. That’s nearly two points higher than the state rate of just under 22 percent.
Hillsborough this year had 10 schools where more than half the students scored at Level 1. That compares to 11 in 2018 including Van Buren, which is no longer counted because it has been folded into the Woodson K-8 School.
The 10 schools on this year’s list are James Elementary, with 63 percent reading at Level 1; Adams Middle, Sulphur Springs Elementary and Foster Elementary, with 57 percent; Potter Elementary and Jennings Middle, with 54.7; Shaw and Robles Elementary, with 54; Kimbell Elementary, 53; and Giunta Middle School, at 51 percent.
At most of these schools, fewer than 20 percent were reading at Level 3 or higher, or grade level. Kimbell, where 23 percent were Level 3 or higher, was the exception.
The Times also examined the district’s 50 Achievement Schools, which just finished their first year under the new improvement system.
More than half those schools showed reading results that were worst than those in 2018, whether they were measured by the number of Level 1 readers, the number scoring at Level 3 or higher, or both.
But not every situation is the same.
Memorial Middle and Booker T. Washington, which had some of the district’s lowest scores two years ago, have both been making steady gains. So are Edison Elementary, Sligh and McLane Middle. Those three, along with Washington, are among the seven chosen for Priority School status when Superintendent Jeff Eakins rolled out his first school improvement initiative in 2015.