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Half of high school students fail reading FCAT

Majority of students show writing proficiency after passing grade was lowered

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first batch of scores on the new, more rigid Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test released Friday show that barely half of the state's ninth- and 10th-grade students are reading at grade level.

High school students must pass the 10th grade FCAT 2.0 reading exam to graduate. Those who failed can retake it.

The other 2012 FCAT results released were the writing scores, which show that not a single county in the state achieved a reading proficiency rate that was to have been the new state standard.

Earlier this week the State Board of Education passed an emergency rule lowering the score to be considered proficient from a 4 to a 3 on a scale of 0-6 after learning that the vast majority of fourth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students would fail the new, higher state standards.

Under the revised plan, 81 percent of fourth-graders earned a passing score or above; 78 percent of eighth-graders passed and 84 percent of 10th-graders scored 3 or above.

Among Duval County students, a higher number of fourth- and 10th-graders rated proficient in reading than last year, and while the rate of eighth-graders dropped from 79 to 78 percent, that was still slightly higher than the state average.

Grade-level or above reading scores among Jacksonville's students went up in both ninth and 10th grades -- the only FCAT reading scores released Friday.

"I am pleased with the results because, in some cases, our students were ahead of the state or gaining on the state in proficiency," said Duval County Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals. "Our students continue to make progress thanks to the hard work of our teachers, faculty and staff."

Given the dramatic drop in writing results, the director of the advocacy group Save Duval Schools is worried about what the third- through eighth grade reading and math tests, along with high school math and science scores will show.  They are expected to be released in about two weeks.

"When scores can get changed in one emergency school board meeting for a writing exam, it makes you wonder about all the other scores," Colleen Wood said.

FROM FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION:  District, school 9th, 10th-grade reading scores
WRITING SCORES FOR INDIVIDUAL SCHOOLS:  4th-grade | 8th-grade | 10th-grade

St. Johns County usually leads the state in FCAT scores, and did so again in reading scores. It's 2012 writing scores were also among the state's highest, but would have shown average levels below proficiency had the emergency rule not passed.

"We are asking more from our students and teachers than we ever have, and I am proud of their hard work," said Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson. "Florida's higher standards help ensure students are learning what they are expected to know so that they are prepared for college, career, and life. As Florida transitions to higher standards and higher expectations, we can expect our assessment results to reflect those changes."

The easing of the scoring for the writing FCAT is only for this year.  FCAT results are factored into school grades, which many families use to determine school choice for their students and assessments of teachers.

"We need to do some training with our teachers on those additional things that the state is training it's scorers to look for so that our teachers are sure to be teaching the things the students will be tested on," said Tim Ballentine, Duval County's executive director for instructional research and accountability.