Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With many parents 'on pins and needles,' state releases third-grade reading results

Florida's third graders got the long-awaited word Friday on state test results that affect whether they move into fourth grade.

For many, the news was good.

Statewide, 58 percent of third grade students scored a Level 3 or higher on the annual reading exam, meaning they met grade-level expectations. That's up from 54 percent a year earlier.

Another 23 percent earned a Level 2, meaning they need extra help but still move on.

The remaining 19 percent — about 43,300 children — scored at the lowest level and, as a result, face the prospect of being held back unless they can receive a good cause exemption. Those can include passing an alternate test or demonstrating mastery of the standards through a portfolio of classroom work.

Last year, 22 percent logged in at Level 1.

Results for school districts in the Tampa Bay area were similar to those statewide. Counties with higher levels of wealth, such as St. Johns and Nassau, continued to lead the state's performance while poorer districts, including DeSoto, Gadsden and Hamilton, continued to lag.

More test results for other grades and subjects will be released through the week of June 8. School grades come later in the summer.

But the third-grade scores arrive first, because they carry the most weight. Those high stakes have caused a great deal of controversy.

Florida's third-grade promotion law, first touted by former Gov. Jeb Bush and copied in several other states, has been the subject of a court challenge by parents who argued their children should be able to move into fourth grade with one of the exemptions — even if they opt out of taking the test and have no score at all.

A Leon County judge agreed with them, but the parents lost on appeal. They've now requested a review by the Florida Supreme Court.

Democratic lawmakers tried to remove the mandatory retention language from statute this spring, but the bills never received a hearing, even as the Legislature made noises about reducing state-mandated tests.

With no changes, districts continue to determine exactly how they will evaluate the students who scored poorly or refused to take the test.

Judith Cosh, principal of Gulf Highlands Elementary School in Pasco County, said she planned to call the parents of all her school's 116 third graders to let them know how they did.

"They're sitting on pins and needles," Cosh said.

Her school has been under the gun to improve its state testing outcomes, having earned D and F state grades since 2013.

This spring, Gulf Highlands showed a 10 percentage-point improvement in students at Level 3 or higher on third-grade reading. Cosh said it took time to find and implement the right teaching practices, while also building students' confidence.

She expected to spend the coming weeks working with families whose children did not do well, seeing if they qualify for an exemption or how they might proceed from here.

Four other Pasco County schools facing state-mandated turnaround plans also saw reductions in the percentage of students at Level 1, the lowest performance rung, on the reading test.

In Pinellas County, the scores show steady improvement district-wide over the last three years. This year, 56 percent of third graders achieved at Level 3 or higher compared to 53 percent last year and 52 percent in 2015.

Schools in the new Transformation Zone, which get extra support, still were among the lowest-performing schools in Pinellas. Of the eight schools, half improved their scores. The others dropped.

In better news, McMullen-Booth Elementary in Clearwater increased its pass rate by 28 percentage points, from 38 percent in 2016 to 66 percent this year, propelling the school out of the district's bottom quartile.

Hillsborough County, as last year, lagged two points behind the state with a proficiency rate of 56 percent. But district leaders celebrated the increase of four points since 2016, equal to Miami-Dade's four-point jump. Combined, the two large districts were key in the state's improvements, they said.

Beyond that contribution, superintendent Jeff Eakins was pleased that 392 fewer students tested at Level 1. Poor reading skills are a pressing concern in Hillsborough, which last year had more than 31,000 Level 1 readers.

Hillsborough also had 1,060 more students this year testing at Level 3 or higher. "Obviously, we're encouraged," Eakins said. "We know third grade is a pivotal year and we're very, very excited about the increase."

At the district's Elevate schools, which were targeted for intensive improvements, some passing rates improved while others held steady.

At Edison and Miles, the third-grade passing rates improved dramatically — from 20 to 33 percent and from 25 to 33 percent respectively. Sulphur Springs K-8 School saw a three-point improvement, while Potter Elementary showed a slight rise and Booker T. Washington Elementary saw its pass rate decline four points, to 16.

Mort Elementary, which became a community school in a separate improvement endeavor, saw a three-point decline in the passing rate.

In Hernando County, the percentage of students at Level 3 or higher was the highest in the Tampa Bay area, and a slight improvement over the previous two years.

"When you provide educators with accurate information, quality resources and time to develop engaging and effective lessons, students will achieve," Hernando superintendent Lori Romano said in a statement. "Success is not magic — it happens when there is a commitment to bring your best each day, and when we foster a respect for the partnership between administrators, teachers, students and parents."

Times staff writers Cara Fitzpatrick, Marlene Sokol and Dan DeWitt contributed to this report. Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or jsolochek@tampabay.com. Follow @jeffsolochek.

By the numbers

Below is a look at third-grade passing rates for reading among schools in the Tampa Bay area and the state, and in two counties — St. Johns and DeSoto — that had starkly different results.

Hernando: 61 percent

Hillsborough: 56 percent

Pasco: 60 percent

Pinellas: 56 percent

State: 58 percent

St. Johns: 80 percent

DeSoto: 31 percent

To see the full results, visit fldoe.org/accountability/assessments/k-12-student-assessment/results/2017.stml

Source: Florida Department of Education

With many parents 'on pins and needles,' state releases third-grade reading results 05/19/17 [Last modified: Friday, May 19, 2017 6:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  2. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses

    Business

    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  3. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule: Stanley Cup champion Penguins, expansion Golden Knights among the coming attractions

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here are the home games with the most intriguing storylines:

    The champs

    (Oct. 12, Oct. 21)

    The two-time defending champion Penguins make two early trips to Tampa. [AP photo]
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here is the full 2017-18 schedule.

    The Lightning's Brayden Point celebrates a goal during a game against the Ottawa Senators in February in Tampa. [AP photo]