News Column

Fla. Scores Lower on Reading, Math Tests

June 5, 2012

Leslie Postal

Fewer students read or did math at grade level when tested on Florida's new, more-challenging academic standards, FCAT results released this morning showed.

Reading and math scores for Florida's fourth-to-eighth graders showed from 53 to 62 percent of the students at grade level -- earning at least a 3 on the five-level Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. (Click here for a database of school and district scores.)

In previous years, higher percentages of students, particularly in the earlier grades, did well on the exams. But this year, students took a revised exam called FCAT 2.0 and were graded on a tougher scale.

That explains why the percentage of fourth graders who scored at grade-level in math fell from 74 percent in recent years to 60 percent this year.

But on several of the tests students did better than expected. The state predicted 58 percent of fifth graders would score at least at grade level on the revised reading exam, for example, but 61 percent did.

Florida made FCAT more challenging to help more students leave high school ready for college and decent paying jobs. Though remediation rates have decreased, 54 percent of Florida's high school graduates did not test "college ready" in math and 46 percent did not test ready in reading, the state' latest data shows.

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said he was pleased that students did better than expected and, at some grade levels, showed gains from 2011.

The percentage of eighth graders at grade level increased on both FCAT reading and math this year compared to last year, for example.

"Our state has spent more than a decade reforming public education and we know that sound transition takes time and patience," he said in a statement. "Florida's children will compete for the jobs of tomorrow and we must do everything possible to ensure that they are ready."

The state also released FCAT science scores for students in grades 5 and 8. Students this year took a revised science exam but it was scored on the old system, as the new one will not be ready until next year. For that reason, statewide science scores this year are the same as they were last year, with 51 percent of fifth graders and 46 percent of eighth graders scoring at grade level.

The FCAT is a series of standardized exams in math, reading, science and writing taken by nearly 2 million public school students. The scores are used to grade schools A-to-F and to make promotion, class assignment and graduation decisions for students.

Students who score below grade level on math and reading typically require remedial classes the next school year.

The state previously had released scores for third graders, who can be held back if they score very poorly on FCAT reading, and for high school students, who must pass the 10th-grade reading exam to graduate. It had also released scores for FCAT writing and its new end-of-course algebra exam.

Individual students' score reports for previously released tests already have been provided to parents or will be soon.

Score reports for the tests released today likely won't be available at the schools for another few weeks, officials said. The scores arrive in district offices and then must be delivered to schools, which sometimes mail them home over the summer or just let parents know when they are available for pickup.

Source: (c) 2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)