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State's 3rd grade reading scores jumped up in 2017

St. Johns County again tops the state in test scores; Nassau in 2nd place

25. Corbett, Ore.: Corbett School
25. Corbett, Ore.: Corbett School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida third graders showed improvement on a key reading test this spring, with 59 of the state's 67 school districts reporting increases in scores, according to the state Department of Education.

Statewide, 58 percent of the 228,104 students who took the test this year gained at least a “satisfactory” score, compared to 54 percent who took the Florida Standards Assessments language-arts test last year, the department reported Friday. 

The scores are important because third graders who score at the lowest level, a 1 on a 5-point scale, may have to repeat the third grade.

More than 43,000 students are in that category this year, although many can still advance with higher scores on other tests or by demonstrating proficiency through classwork.

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St. Johns County was at the top in the state with 80 percent of its third-graders passing the test. It was followed by Nassau, 78 percent; Santa Rosa, 74 percent; and Gilchrist, 72 percent.

Duval County's pass rate was 51 percent, up 1 point from last year and 5 points from 2015.

In Clay County, 70 percent of third graders passed the reading test -- a 7-point jump over last year.

"This information confirms that our school district is making great strides toward becoming a top ten school district," Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis said. "Our leaders, administrators, teachers, and support staff have worked diligently with students to improve learning strategies and scores."

The largest increase by a northeast Florida district was in Columbia County, where the 63 percent passing was up 8 points from 2016.

Miami-Dade, the largest district with more than 28,400 third-graders taking the test, had a 58 percent passing rate. 

A half-dozen districts reported declines in passing rates, with the biggest drop in Gadsden County, which had a 34 percent passing rate. DeSoto had the lowest passing rate in the state at 31 percent, while Hamilton was next-lowest at 32 percent.

MORE DATA: Florida Department of Education assessment results

A group of parents last year sued the state after their children were held back because they "opted out" of the reading test. That legal challenge is now pending before the Florida Supreme Court.