Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools' Exam Scores Improve; Students Do Better on State-Mandated Standardized Tests

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools' Exam Scores Improve; Students Do Better on State-Mandated Standardized Tests

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

More First Coast students in public schools passed state-required exams, according to just released statewide results, and some of Duval's schools struggled with the tests.

In English Language Arts/Reading tests, each of the region's school districts improved over last year. For instance, three quarters of St. Johns County students passed their English tests, up from 73 percent last year, while 59 percent of Clay County students did well, up from 56 percent last year.

Even though more than half of Duval County's students failed the English test, the district still improved to 48 percent, compared to 46 percent last year. Baker also stepped up to 49 percent from 47 percent last year. Nassau jumped to 65 percent from 62 percent.

When combining state-mandated math tests, most students in Northeast Florida passed and district records improved. Duval's passing rate went from 53 percent to 55 percent, and Nassau went from 71 percent to 73 percent. St. Johns and Clay counties each went up a percentage point to 80 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

Compared to Florida's six biggest school districts, Duval's passing rates in English put it in last place, and the passing rates in math for grades three through eight also put Duval last, tied with Hillsborough county.

Nevertheless, Duval officials Thursday highlighted the victories they saw in the data.

"Each year, our state raises performance requirements, and this year's scores demonstrate that our students are meeting the challenge in most categories," said Duval's interim Superintendent Patricia Willis.

"When compared to similar districsts, we also see evidence that instructional excellence in our classrooms occurs every day. We did not drop in any category throughout our elementary schools, and it is pleasing and encouraging to see the improvements in English Language Arts for ninth- and tenth-grade students."

She said the district's teams are "taking a deep dive into the data," and looking for ways to support challenging areas.

For instance, fewer Duval middle schools improved than declined in 8th grade math and reading compared to last year, according to a Times-Union analysis. On the other hand, more Duval elementary schools improved in third- and fifth-grade reading and math than declined.

Excluding charter schools, Duval's district analysis shows its schools doing substantially better in certain end-of-course exams.

For instance, 74 percent of Duval students who took the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam passed it, up from 51 percent the prior year.

Across Florida, state officials said, most district performance on standardized tests improved over the prior year and achievement gaps narrowed across multiple subjects and grades.

"Today's announcement is great news for Florida's students," said Gov. Rick Scott in a prepared statement. "The accomplishments of our students are proof that we cannot take our foot off the gas and must continue to provide record funding for Florida's education system. …

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