Dade and Broward schools see improvement on state test scores

Two Florida students taking a standardized test.
Two Florida students taking a standardized test.

School is out for the summer and the results of state standardized testing are in.

Miami-Dade and Broward County schools showed slight improvements on the Florida Standards Assessment and end-of-course exam results for the 2016-2017 school year, which were released on Thursday. The exams are designed to measure how well students understand core subjects like reading and math.

Passing rates on state elementary and middle school math tests went up three percentage points overall in Miami-Dade — from 57 to 60 percent — compared to the previous year. They rose two percentage points — from 58 to 60 percent — in Broward County schools. The school districts also saw slight improvements in the number of students passing the state language arts tests, an increase from 52 to 54 percent in Dade and 53 to 55 percent in Broward. The local increases mirrored small bumps in passing rates statewide.

At a press conference Friday morning, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he was especially pleased with the double-digit increases in passing rates at six of the seven district schools that are rated “F” by the state.

“This is critical because of the learning gains in performance, these schools will demonstrate a great deal of improvement as the letter grades are released,” he said, referring to the school ratings, which are based in part on student performance on state tests.

Most of the state tests don’t impact whether a student is able to move on to the next grade level or graduate from high school, but a few do have serious consequences. On one of the tests that is a state graduation requirement — the Algebra I exam — Miami-Dade and Broward each saw passing rates for high school students increase by seven percentage points compared to the previous year.

The passing rates are still low, however, at just 39 percent in Miami-Dade and 49 percent in Broward for students who took the exam in high school. (Middle school math whizzes can take the exam early and tend to pass at a much higher rate, bringing the overall average to 56 percent in Miami-Dade and 64 percent in Broward.) High school students can retake the Algebra I exam, but they are required to pass it in order to graduate. The high school passing rate statewide was 42 percent.

The Florida Standards Assessment is the successor to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, and is widely considered to be more difficult to pass. Florida students took the FSA for the first time in 2015.