Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Say What Now? 10,000 Floridian 3rd graders get Left Back!

More than 10,000 South Florida third-graders — or one in five — are at risk of being held back a grade next year after flunking the state’s reading exam.

Scores released Friday by the Florida Department of Education show 6,000 youngsters in Miami-Dade and another 4,000 in Broward County failed the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a critical benchmark in determining whether those children will be promoted to the fourth grade.

The results show a slight uptick in the number of failing students from recent years, even though the overall reading scores of third grade students in Miami-Dade and Broward County schools showed improvement in a year where overall the state plateaued. Throughout Florida, 33,000 third-grade students failed the test, though many will be promoted through exceptions.

We find this [retention] policy has worked very well for Florida’s students, and as a result of this, our students are performing better,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “We feel this is the right approach.”

The scores from writing exams and third-grade math and reading tests are important for schools, which receive their state-issued letter grades based on test performance. Thousands of teachers also receive their evaluations based largely on their students’ reading and math scores.
A larger release of Florida test scores is expected in coming weeks.
But the results released Friday are most critical for third-grade students, who since 2002 have been required to score at least a 2 out of 5 on the reading exam to avoid the threat of having to repeat the third grade. The policy was put in place under then-Gov. Jeb Bush as a means to thwart “social promotion” and boost reading proficiency.

Since then, the percentages of third-grade students passing the state’s reading exams has risen notably, and the number of failing students has dropped. Students who fail the test also have other opportunities to pass to the fourth grade, including retaking the FCAT during a summer reading camp and being promoted because they performed better on a series of standardized tests during the course of the year.

But, even as states around the country have adopted third-grade retention laws, often at the behest of Bush’s education foundation, the policy of retaining 8-year-olds based largely on one test remains a controversial practice that for critics is an example of testing gone haywire. One California researcher who studied retention found in the mid-2000s that older students compared the stress of being retained with losing a parent or going blind.

Read in Entirety at Miami Herald

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