Keys FCAT scores remain generally solid

rmccarthy@keynoter.comJune 11, 2014 

Statewide standardized test scores released by the state Department of Education on Friday show mixed results from Monroe County students.

The average number of Keys students to achieve passing grades or better in the reading portion of the 2014 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test dropped 1 percent from 2013 (grades three to 10) and 1 percent in math (grades three to eight). In grade-five science, there was a 3 percent drop but in grade-eight science, there was a 3 percent increase.

However, the average number of Keys students to achieve passing grades or better in all three subjects was still at or above the statewide 2014 averages, according to DOE figures. Scores are tallied on a 1-5 scale, with 3 equaling a passing grade.

Schools Superintendent Mark Porter said Tuesday that while the numbers aren't without some merit, he doesn't believe they make for the most useful comparisons of district performance.

"There are some areas of concern. The way the numbers are presented, to me, is one of the least informative because you're looking at entirely different groups of students," he said.

Porter said tracking "diagonals," meaning tracking the same students over time, is a far better progress indicator.

"One of the things we do is we compile the data so we're looking at successive grade levels," he said. "That to me is the far more significant way to look at it."

Writing results, released by DOE prior to the other three subjects, indicate a more significant gap between Keys students and overall state averages. That test is taken by students in fourth, eight and 10th grades.

According to DOE, 585,047 Florida students took the writing exam with a score of 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 equaling a passing grade.

Overall, 53 percent of fourth-graders passed the exam, 56 percent of eighth-graders and 64 percent of sophomores. In the Keys, the percentages were 33, 46 and 54.

There were 1.59 million Florida students who took the FCAT reading exam, with 58 percent passing. That's 1 percent higher than in 2013.

The Monroe average dropped from 61 percent to 60 percent, but is still 2 percent higher than the state average. A total of 4,697 Keys students took the reading exam.

The state math FCAT was taken by 1.16 million students and the average was 56 percent in both 2013 and 2014. The average dropped 1 percent in the Keys, from 57 percent to 56 percent, with 3,230 students taking the exam.

In fifth-grade science, the decline from 63 percent to 60 percent of passing students (out of 582) still left Monroe 6 percent better than the 54 percent statewide average. But statewide, students improved 1 percent from 2013.

The eighth-grade science students (590) in Monroe showed the most improvement from 2013, increasing from 55 percent to 58 percent passing grades. The statewide average, with 197,210 students taking the test, increased from 47 percent to 49 percent.

That's a lot of data to digest, and Porter said district staff would be sifting through it in the coming days.

"We pore through it -- not in search of excuses, but [to find] where are the real successes and real challenges," he said. "It really does require a lot of effort and a lot of clarification."

School Board member Andy Griffiths said "anything 2 percent or below is generally statistically insignificant."

"You prioritize your biggest declines and biggest inclines and start from there. You want to see how the state as a whole did and find out if you're part of a pattern," he said.

"We're still above state average in most measurements," he added. "You can really put a lot of time in on this, but unless you see a dramatic change with or against a trend, it's tough to put too much time in it."

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