Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is responding like a disappointed dad to news that Florida students did a little bit better on their standardized tests this year, but not as well as he would have liked.
They show across-the-board improvement on EOC assessments, particularly in Biology 1 and Geometry.
In a press release, DOE said FCAT 2.0 Reading scores increased in grades 6, 8, 9 and 10. For FCAT 2.0 Mathematics, grade 4 showed improvement. In FCAT 2.0 Science, grade 5 showed improvement and grade 8 remained the same.
But the scores didn’t move enough to appease Bennett.
“The FCAT results are flat, and I find that personally unacceptable,” Bennett said. “I think we have to refocus our efforts on reading and making sure our students have the foundational skills necessary in mathematics.”
Bennett said the FCAT scores weren’t disastrous; they simply looked unimpressive compared to EOC assessment results that were very good.
The scores help determine overall school grades, which impact teacher salaries. Bennett expects a decline in school grades this year because of tougher standards.
“It’s not an indication that our schools have done worse,” Bennett said. “With the increased expectations over time, Florida schools have always answered that call.”
He said educators needs to keep high expectations for success.
“These results show that where we put our focus is where we see our progress,” Bennett said, acknowledging the emphasis that was placed on EOC assessments this year. “We have a clear path forward as Florida shifts to the Common Core State Standards and an emphasis on helping all students think analytically and critically.”
Students in grades 3 through 10 are given scores based on five performance levels on the FCAT 2.0.
Students scoring a 3, 4, or 5 are achieving at or above grade level. Those scoring a 1 or 2 are achieving below grade level and need additional assistance.
Students must pass 10th grade FCAT reading and the Algebra 1 EOC to graduate. They get multiple chances to re-take the exams.
Florida is transitioning to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and math.
In the next two years, Florida will replace the FCAT 2.0 and EOC assessments in writing, reading and math with Common Core assessments now being developed. FCAT 2.0 Reading and FCAT 2.0 Writing will be replaced by one assessment in English Language Arts.
“State assessment results let Floridians know what grades and subjects we need to focus on,” said Patricia Levesque with the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a group founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush that’s pushing Common Core. “This year’s FCAT results show we need to refocus on the core elements of education – reading and mathematics.”
Here is a sampling of today’s results from DOE:
Algebra 1 – Statewide, the percentage of first-time test takers scoring a 3 and above increased from 58 percent for spring 2012 to 64 percent in spring 2013. Eleventh-grade students showed the largest gains, with a nine percentage point increase in the percentage of students scoring Level 3 and above.
Geometry – Statewide, 64 percent of students taking the Geometry EOC for the first time scored a 3 and above in spring 2013, an eight percentage point increase after applying the new standards to last year’s spring results. Tenth graders showed the most improvement, with an eight percentage point increase from 2012.
Biology 1 – 67 percent of first-time test takers statewide who took the Biology 1 EOC scored a 3 and above in spring 2013. This is an eight percentage point increase from spring 2012 after applying the new standards established by the State Board of Education in December 2012. Students in grades 10 and 11 made the most improvement with each group jumping 9 percentage points from the previous year.