Robinson acknowledged it can be confusing for parents and students to compare this year’s results to last year’s. His department plans to give districts a letter for parents to explain changes along with report cards. “It’s no way a manipulation of the figures. It’s an adjustment of how we grade the FCAT,” he said.
Still, if both year’s third-grade test results are graded on the new scale, Miami-Dade students showed improvement, according to the district’s analysis. For third-grade, the passing rate for reading edged up a percentage point, while statewide it slipped slightly. In math, a greater percentage of Miami-Dade students passed the math exam than students statewide and than students in Palm Beach and Hillsborough.
That’s the good news for students and teachers.
But the good news won’t translate in the state-issued school grades, slated for release in July.
The rules for school letter grades are also tougher this year. For the first time, the formula will include students who are in their second year of learning English and students with disabilities. Miami-Dade district enrolls about 70,000 students who are learning English — more than the number taught by other large districts.
“The little improvement we had isn’t going to mitigate the huge losses we’re going to experience because of the new accountability system for school grades,” said Gisela Feild, the administrative director for assessment, research and data analysis for Dade.
Statewide, 43 percent of English-language students failed the reading exam, scoring a 1 out of 5; 36 percent of those students earned a level 1 on the math test, Robinson said.
On Thursday, the state DOE also released results for the end-of-course exams in biology and geometry. End-of-course exams are replacing the FCAT. This year, they count toward 30 percent of a student’s grade in the class. Eventually, a student will have to pass the end-of-course exam to pass their class in school.
Passing levels for biology and geometry have not yet been established by the state Board of Education; this was the first year of administering the tests.