25% of Duval County's 3rd graders at risk of being held back

Despite low scores, FSA results show improvement over previous years

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter, Ashley Harding - Reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Test results are in and the numbers show a concerning number of third graders are at risk of being held back.

The Florida Department of Education finds that statewide, 20% of third graders are at risk of repeating the third grade. That includes many students in Jacksonville. The results also show some local counties are doing better overall.

These numbers are based on how third graders did on the Florida Standards Assessment language arts tests. The results are split into five performance levels and students need to score a two or higher to advance to fourth grade.

For Duval County, the results show 25% failed to do so. Statewide, 20% of third graders are at risk of repeating third grade.

WATCH: 25% of 3rd graders in Duval County at risk of being held back

Percentages of students who failed to score two or higher in area districts


Duval County's top performing schools include:

  • Jacksonville Beach Elementary School, where 99% of students scored a three or higher
  • J. Allen Axon Elementary School
  • Seaside Community Charter School


The worst performing schools in Jacksonville include:

  • GRASP Academy
  • Carter G. Woodson Elementary School
  • Lake Forest Elementary School


Some may recall, Lake Forest Elementary was one of two struggling schools in Duval County that was moved to outside management. Only 12% of third graders at Lake Forest scored Level 3 or higher.

It’s distressing news for parents like Geraldenia Steel, whose third grade son has special needs.

“It’s very concerning because these kids, they come to school and try to do their best. As parents, we try to do our best," Steel said. 

She said better communication at the school would make a difference.

“Other schools that my son went to, they had 'remind me,' and a portal where you’re able to see what the children are doing on a daily basis," Steel said.

Steel said she’s planning to transfer her son to a different school to better fulfill his needs.

If your child was one of those to not score high enough to be promoted to fourth-grade, you are to be notified by the school. There are also good-cause exemptions that would allow a child to be promoted or options to improve the score by the end of the summer.

Florida law says some students can still move on to fourth grade based on these exemptions:

  • Limited English proficient students 
  • Students with disabilities 
  • Students who made certain scores on other standardized tests
  • Students meeting certain criteria on their yearly reading portfolio 
  • Students who were previously retained 

Students can also attend summer school to gain a promotion.

Last year, about 3,300 third graders were categorized for retention based on FSA results. Due to summer school or through the special exemption process, more than two-thirds of those students were promoted to fourth grade.

Test results from your child's school (App users, see the charts here)

The good news? Local counties are doing better than they did in 2015. The number of students with satisfactory scores or higher in Duval County went from 46% to 51%.

  • Clay County jumped from 62% to 68%
  • St Johns County improved from 73% to 78%


At R.L. Brown Elementary, the principal was proud that its overall reading scores grew 80% this year and its Level 1 score was down to 21% -- better than the Duval County average. Principal Lynn Haberman attributes the improvement to several things.

"Changing the mindset of our children and focusing on their individual goals and monitoring and adjusting the instruction based on their individual needs as well as teaching social growth alongside of academics," Haberman said. "Our teachers are extremely responsive, so I don’t think it’s even a parent-kid question so much as a community in our school question. We’re all rooting for each other‘s children."

One parent of a third grader said preparing students for these tests starts at home.

"We have busy jobs. We have busy lives. We have bills to pay. We have to go to work, but just making sure you’re involved in what’s going on in the classroom with the child and at home at the same time," Samantha Alexander said.

County-by-county scores for the FSA language arts exam (App users, see the charts here)

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