Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Help's on Way for Third-Graders; Several Schools Will Comb Their Students' Scores and Give Customized Attention

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Help's on Way for Third-Graders; Several Schools Will Comb Their Students' Scores and Give Customized Attention

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY MARAGHY

Help is on the way for some schools that ranked lowest in Clay County on the recently released third-grade FCAT scores.

Grove Park, Wilkinson and Bennett elementary schools will be getting math coaches next year.

Grove Park -- where 54 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunch -- was the only Clay County school where third-grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores fell below the state average in both reading and math.

Socio-economics plays a role in FCAT scores, said Mary Bethea, assistant superintendent of instruction for Clay County schools.

"When you are struggling to survive, academics is difficult. Some parents are stretched so tight," she said. "Some families of minimal means do amazing things to help their children, but for others it can be more difficult."

Charles E. Bennett Elementary has the highest percentage of low-income families with 69 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. Wilkinson Elementary is next with 58 percent, and Grove Park is third highest.

Throughout May and into the summer, administrators and teachers will study the latest release of FCAT scores to determine which third-graders struggled most and on what test questions. Teachers are trained to dissect FCAT results and find which students need extra help and in what specific ways. For example, one may have struggled with problems related to reading comprehension or finding the main idea in a passage.

"We have the ability to pinpoint exactly where the problem is and then make plans on how to best serve those students," Bethea said. "It's not a question of how hard the teachers are working. We can't ask them to work any harder. As a district we need to narrow our approach."

That means continuing to hone in on the most-essential skills students need to learn. Using supplemental academic instruction funds, the district will funnel more resources to lower-performing schools and offer summer reading camps.

Clay County School Superintendent David Owens said teachers are trained continuously on how to better help those students who scored in the lower percentile.

"We already have many programs in place," he said. "Such as remedial labs, which help students who are more responsive to a computer program than the techniques used by teachers. …

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