Clay County students scored above average in math and reading
skills in a new statewide test designed to measure how well
Florida's public school teachers are applying state educational
The results of Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Test put Clay
ahead of most other Northeast Florida school districts this
week. The only exception was St. Johns County, which scored
slightly higher in all categories.
"Are we where we want to go? Absolutely not," said Walter
Brock, assistant superintendent for instruction. "We have a lot
of room to grow. But we are pleased . . ."
Out of Florida's 67 school districts, Clay County's math scores
earned the district a 10th place in fifth grade, ninth in eighth
grade and eighth in 10th grade. In reading, students placed 12th
in fourth grade, ninth in eighth grade and 19th in 10th grade.
The FCAT scores, which come on the heels of significant
improvements in the Florida Writes! test in Clay County, is
different from most tests in that it requires students to use
analysis and critical thinking skills, rather than rote
memorization, and explain how they arrive at their answers.
While many students had complained about how hard the test was
a few months ago, Schools Superintendent David Owens said, they
obviously were up to the challenge.
"We scored above the average in every category," he said. "But
that didn't take us totally by surprise."
The FCAT also was designed to measure teaching effectiveness
and hold schools accountable for student performance
based on the Sunshine State Standards, a set of educational
guidelines established in 1996 for all public schools in
"This tests how well we are teaching the Sunshine State
Standards," Owens said. "One of the purposes of FCAT was to
identify low-performing schools and highperforming schools."
Since this year's test results establish the baseline data upon
which future exams will be compared, no lowor high-performing
schools can be identified until after students complete next
year's FCAT tests and the state determines what cutoff points
will be used, Brock said.
The main purpose of the test, Brock said, was "to raise
[academic] standards" in all grade levels.
The FCAT was given in January to students in fourth, fifth,
eighth and 10th grades. But how well they did was, to a great
degree, dependent on how well they were taught in earlier
grades, said Brock.
Fourth-graders were tested only in reading and fifth-graders
only in math, while students in eighth and 10th grades were
tested in both fields. Possible scores range from 100 to 500,
with the statewide average falling around 300.
The academic progress of individual students will be tracked
each year, using the FCAT scores as a baseline to assess their
progress, Owens and Brock said.
"This simply tells us how our students rate in ability to meet
the standards matched against other students in other
districts," Brock said.
Next week, parents will find out for themselves exactly how
their children did on the tests. Copies will be mailed to
parents on Tuesday, Brock said.
Owens visited Clay High School, his old campus when he was a
principal in 1996, after the FCAT was given in January and
talked with students about the exam.
"A lot of them said it was hard and that there was more writing
[than on other tests]," he said. "It took more thinking and
But just because many students thought the test was hard
doesn't mean they had become lazy, academically speaking, Brock