Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

First Coast Third-Graders Improve in Reading, Math; African-American and Hispanic Youths Narrow the Achievement Gap

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

First Coast Third-Graders Improve in Reading, Math; African-American and Hispanic Youths Narrow the Achievement Gap

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FCAT SCORES

NORTHEAST FLORIDA

Most area schools saw increases in third-grade math and reading, with only Putnam County staying the same in reading.

DUVAL COUNTY

Reading scores for 69 Duval County schools increased from last year, while 30 schools saw their scores drop.

BAKER COUNTY

Baker County saw a 5 percentage point increase in reading for its schools, the largest boost in Northeast Florida.

SUCCESS STORY

St. Clair Evans Academy had the largest increase in percentage points of students at or above grade level in reading.

Northeast Florida third-graders in general did better on reading and math standardized testing this year than last, resulting in fewer of the students facing being held back because of their reading scores, according to Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Test results released Wednesday.

Baker County students saw the largest percentage point increase in the number of students who can read at or above grade level, followed closely by Duval County. Putnam County was the only Northeast Florida county in which scores in reading stayed the same as last year instead of increasing.

Baker County schools Superintendent Paula Barton said school leaders and teachers have taken training on the best ways to teach students to read. She credits that training in part with good test scores.

Duval County students saw the largest percentage point increase in math scores, followed by Clay and St. Johns students.

Duval County schools Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals credited some of the gains to teachers with more experience. He said more than half of the district's teachers were hired within the past four years. About half of those didn't have traditional college education degrees.

He said the district has put an emphasis on professional development for those teachers, including coaches, and it's paying off.

But he said he'll wait to see results for upper grades, expected in the next few weeks, before celebrating Wednesday's results.

Local score increases were in sync with those statewide for both math and reading. The increases in reading come after a dramatic drop last year statewide and locally on the reading portion of the test. Department of Education officials last year said the 2006 scores were improperly inflated.

The statewide reading scores for this year were still a few percentage points behind those for 2006. The same was true for Duval, St. Johns, Clay and Putnam counties. Nassau County's 2008 results matched those for 2006, but Baker County saw an increase this year even above the 2006 numbers.

The reading test is especially important for third-graders, because those who score at a Level 1 could be held back. Statewide, the percentage of students who scored at the lowest level of the test decreased from last year. The same was true for Northeast Florida counties, other than Nassau County, which stayed the same as last year. Students who get a Level 1 could either go to summer school or get an exemption to state standards based on other factors. …

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