Leon County 3rd Graders Make Gains As Others Statewide Stall Out

May 24, 2014

Leon School Superintendent Jackie Pons (center) w/school board member Maggie Lewis-Butler and others celebrate the district's FCAT progress.
Credit LHatter / WFSU News

The final results of student performance on the outgoing Florida Comprehensive Assessment test have started trickling out and third graders are stuck when it comes to their reading performance. However, Leon County is one of a few districts bucking that trend.

The 3rd grade reading FCAT test is a crucial benchmark for students, because those that don’t get at least a three out of five on the exam could be retained.For the past several years, the number of students scoring below the benchmark "three" score has stagnated, and state officials don’t know why. But state education commissioner Pam Stewart points out, this wasn’t a typical school year.

“In grades 3-12 they were to be teaching a blended course. So they were teaching all the Next Generation Sunshine Standards and all the additional standards," she told reporters in a conference call.

Students in 3rd through 12th grade began using the state’s common core standards, now renamed Florida Standards in addition to the old "Next Generation Sunshine Standards". But according to the FCAT reading and writing reports, many districts struggled to merge the two systems together. Florida’s Capital County of Leon was one of only a few that managed to make it work.

“I think what we’ve found is if we let good instruction take place in the classroom, the data speaks for itself and I think that’s what happened here," said Scotty Crowe is an administrator with the Leon County School District.

Leon teachers say it’s been easier to integrate the new English/Language Arts standards than it has been to do the new math requirements. Florida is in the process of phasing out the FCAT. Next year students across the state will take new exams aligned with the new “Florida Standards.”