3rd-grade language arts FSA scores dip for local counties amid pandemic

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) reported that 54% of third-grade students this year scored “satisfactory” or above on the state English-language arts exam, a 4 percentage-point decrease from 2019 when the exam was last administered.

When compared to 2019, almost all Jacksonville-area counties saw a dip in scores in 2021.

In Clay County, scores dropped 5%, while in Duval and Nassau counties, scores fell 3% and 7%, respectively.

Bradford and Columbia counties both saw scores drop 8%.

St. Johns County was the only county that didn’t see a drop-off. There was no change in 2021 when compared to 2019 scores, data show.

The department, however, touted the results as evidence of the importance of keeping schools open through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a news release accompanying the results, the department wrote that despite the decrease, “the data clearly shows that, on average, districts with higher rates of in-person instruction weathered the ‘COVID slide’ better and saw lesser declines between 2019 and 2021 than districts with higher rates of virtual instruction.”

Statewide assessment test administrations for the 2019-20 school year were canceled; therefore, data are not reported for 2020.

“Throughout the year we continued to work with districts to get struggling students on campus full-time to stop learning loss and the possibility of widening achievement gaps. With overwhelming data to support our decisions, we stood firm for our students, families and their teachers,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news release. “We can now say without hesitation that this generation of Florida’s K-12 students are positioned for success better than any other state in the nation.”

Under an emergency order issued by the department in April, accountability measures were waived for all state exams administered to students this year.

The department said Tuesday that the exam’s results instead will “help policymakers understand the reading achievements and deficiencies of Florida’s Grade 3 students.”

FDOE also noted that charter school performance was higher than non-charter school performance by 8% on the 2021 Grade 3 FSA ELA (61% vs. 53%).

In 2021, Black and Hispanic student performance at Level 3 and above decreased by 3% (54% to 51% and 40% to 37%, respectively), while white student performance decreased by 4% (71% to 67%), according to FDOE.

Results from other statewide assessments will be published no later than July 31, according to the department.

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Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.