Just over half of Florida’s third-graders performed at or above the passing level on this spring’s statewide reading test, essentially the same result as a year ago.
This group of children had their first grade interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their second grade marked by quarantines and distance learning, before returning to a mostly normal school year for 2021-22. About 99% attended in-person classes for third grade, with the majority sitting for the exam.
That makes the data valuable in determining where children found success and where they need more attention, said Jacob Oliva, Florida’s interim education commissioner.
“I don’t ever want to make excuses,” Oliva said. “We will use this data to work with districts to say there are some students that have had more of an impact than others because of COVID. The question is, now what are we going to do about it?”
Statewide, 53% of third-graders scored at or above Level 3, considered a satisfactory or passing mark. That was down from 54% in 2021. Scores were at that level in 2015 and at 58% in 2019.
About 11,000 more children took the test this year, which could affect the passing percentage.
Oliva noted that while the state uses the third-grade reading test as a marker for possibly repeating the grade, schools work with students to determine where individual children have gaps and get them prepared for fourth grade.
Students can present other materials, such as a portfolio of course work, to demonstrate they qualify for promotion. Historically, less than half of the children who receive the lowest score, Level 1, on the test are held back.
This year, 25% of third-graders earned a Level 1 statewide.
Florida assesses student performance using five levels. Students who score at Level 2 are below satisfactory. Level 4 indicates that a student is proficient in a subject and Level 5 indicates mastery.
“This is one piece of data to help the professionals and the parents make an informed decision,” Oliva said.
Around the Tampa Bay area, 49% of Hillsborough County third-graders earned a Level 3 or higher, down from 51% a year ago.
In Pinellas County, 52% were at that level, down from 54%.
Pasco County had 53% of students at Level 3 or higher, down from 56%.
Hernando County had 54% passing, down from 57%.
The Department of Education released the information to school districts Wednesday afternoon. It also included school-by-school scores.
This is the final year of the state using the Florida Standards Assessments. Starting with the 2022-23 school year, it will transition to progress monitoring, a system of smaller assessments throughout the school year intended to give students and teachers more timely information about how they are meeting the standards.
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Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar had not seen any of the results. He said it’s important for the general public to put the outcome into context.
“We know this was a year full of distractions, disruptions and distress,” Spar said. “I would not be surprised if it had an impact on students.”
He said the state and school districts should do more to address the academic needs that the pandemic brought to the fore.
“It’s still impacting our schools,” Spar said. “I don’t think we can pretend it’s normal.”
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