Wed11262014

Last updateTue, 25 Nov 2014 9pm

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Local students score at and above state averages on reading and writing, but district cautious

Based on the new standards hastily adopted by the Florida Board of Education earlier this week, about eight in ten Alachua County students are proficient in writing, but Alachua County Public School officials say they are wary of making major decisions based on those results.

 “The state has changed the test and raised and lowered the bar so much that it’s hard for us to know what the results really mean,” said Superintendent Dan Boyd. “We’re certainly going to be cautious about how we use the scores, especially when it comes to individual students.”

 According to test results released today, 81% of local 4th graders scored a 3 or above on the FCAT writing test, right at the state average. Seventy-nine percent of 8th graders were at a 3 or above, slightly higher than the state average of 77%, while 84% of 10th graders at both the state and local level scored a 3 or above.

 The Florida Department of Education also released the first set of scores for the new FCAT reading test. According to the state, 57% of Alachua County 9th graders scored a 3 or above, compared to 52% statewide. At 10th grade, 55% of local students scored a 3 or above, while the Florida average was 50%.

 Students this year took what is now called the FCAT 2.0, a new version of the FCAT given in writing, reading, math and science. The state also significantly raised passing scores on the tests, warning that the changes would lower student scores and school grades dramatically.

 But when statewide writing results showed that about three-quarters of students would have failed, Florida education officials decided to lower the proficiency rate back to a score of 3. During an emergency conference call with the state Board of Education and later with the media, Commissioner Gerard Robinson acknowledged that districts and teachers may not have had enough time or information to prepare for all the changes.

 “Overnight students didn’t become bad writers,” he said.

 Individual student scores are not expected to be available until next week. Local educators are encouraging to parents not to jump to any conclusions based on this year’s test.

 “They should not assume that their children are bad writers based on this one essay,” said Sandy Hollinger, deputy superintendent for instruction and student services. “There are too many unanswered questions about the FCAT testing this year. Their child’s teacher is a much better source of information.”

 School grades based on the FCAT scores won’t be released until this summer, but the state says to expect much lower grades this year as a result of the many changes to the tests, the scoring system, the passing rates and the grading formula.

 “We know we’re going to see significant drops across the board,” said Robinson during a conference call earlier today.