As the state released third grade reading scores earlier than expected on Friday, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho received a call.
On the phone was Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. She congratulated the county for "bucking the trend." Without Miami-Dade's 3-percentage-point improvement, along with similar gains in Broward and Palm Beach, the state's average pass rate would've slid more than just 1 percentage point to 57 percent.
Both Miami-Dade and Broward counties surpassed state averages on the Florida Standards Assessments English Language Arts exam, with 61 percent of Dade third graders and 59 percent of Broward third graders earning a passing score of 3 or higher. That's a first for Miami-Dade, which has been on par with the state since switching from using the Florida Comprehensive Assessment test, or FCAT, to the FSA in 2015.
"We are not like the rest of the state," Carvalho said at a press conference Thursday, pointing out that Miami-Dade is poorer, more diverse and has disproportionately more English language learners than other counties. "But none of those factors gets in the way of us posting better than average performance, better than average growth in the state as a whole."
The statewide average calculates test scores for 228,000 third graders in 67 counties. Miami-Dade carries a lot of weight as the county tested 27,000 students, or 12.3 percent of the state's third graders.
Carvalho also touted gains among minority groups. Passing rates among both non-Hispanic white and Hispanic groups have increased 6 and 7 percentage points, to 80 percent and 64 percent, respectively. Black students still lag far behind their peers, although passing rates have increased 13 percentage points, from 32 percent to 45 percent, since 2015.
Dade also saw a decrease in third graders scoring a 1, which means an additional 300 students will be eligible for promotion this year, according to the district.
Miami-Dade School Board vice chair Martin Karp said gains were made despite the shortage of funding out of Tallahassee.
"We believe the funding we request will go a long way in making the entire state that much stronger," he said.
In a press release, the Broward County school district had 82 out of 142 elementary schools make gains compared to last year.
“We are proud of our students and educators for their hard work and efforts," said Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie. "These results represent sustained and steady progress, which has occurred over the past four years."
Third grade reading scores are usually released ahead of test scores in other grades and subjects so schools can make decisions on retentions or promotions. The scores factor into official school grades, which are expected to be released from the state this summer, and can affect funding and consequences.
To see how your school fared, click here.