South Florida’s students performed as well or better than last year in most every field tested in 2013 by the state. But schools, and by extension teachers, are likely to be judged more harshly in the coming months as Florida implements more rigorous standards.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Education released the remaining results for FCAT 2.0 assessments, as well as end-of-course exams. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho called gains across his district “remarkable.” Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said scores were “stable.”
But Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett described the statewide data as “a mixed bag,” with scores improving on end-of-course exams but remaining stagnant on FCAT subjects. He said school grades released this summer will likely drop due to tougher accountability measures.
“The FCAT results are flat and I find that personally unacceptable,” he said. “I don’t want to overstate our happiness in how we perceive the [end-of-course] results. But I don’t want to overstate our disappointment in flat results of the FCAT.”
Results released Friday were for FCAT 2.0 reading (grades 4 through 10), math (4 through 8) and science (5 and 8), as well as end-of-course assessments in algebra, geometry, biology and U.S. history. Writing, and third-grade math and reading scores were released last month. Students’ individual scores will be released by schools in the coming weeks.
• Miami-Dade’s FCAT reading scores improved across all grades compared to last year’s, while Broward’s were up slightly.
• FCAT math results were harder to read because of conflicts that hurt eighth-grade scores, and to a lesser extent seventh grade. But toss those aside, and scores were up modestly across Miami-Dade and down slightly in Broward.
• On end-of-course exams, at least 60 percent of students who took geometry and biology for the first time passed in South Florida. And first-time takers of the crucial algebra exam passed at improved rates of 65 percent in Miami-Dade and 66 percent in Broward.
• More high school sophomores passed FCAT reading, which like algebra is mandatory to earn a diploma. Students in both Miami-Dade and Broward passed the reading test at a rate of 52 percent - an improvement of 6 points for Dade, and 3 points for Broward. Students who fail the exams have more opportunities to take the tests again.
The state will use this year’s scores to measure growth in schools. The scores also factor into school grades and teacher evaluations. But tests, cut scores and grading formulas have been changed so often in Florida that some question how much the data means.
For instance, Broward and Miami-Dade’s eighth-grade math FCAT scores plummeted this year because high-performing students in advanced math classes were administered the algebra and geometry end-of-course exams rather than the math FCAT, and their absence hurt overall results. It’s unclear if that change will contribute to lower school letter grades.
“If I were the public, it’s hard to read a lot into these numbers,” Runcie said.
Carvalho said results show Miami-Dade’s students improved dramatically, but its unlikely they’ll get their due credit.