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Third-grade FCAT scores better, but some will not pass; Officials say 12 percent

By Staff | May 22, 2008

The Lee County School District released third-grade FCAT results on Wednesday.

The results revealed that reading and math scores for public schools exceeded statewide averages, and exceeded county averages from last year.

Six thousand two hundred twenty-two students were tested this year. Seven hundred forty of those students scored level one in reading, meaning 12 percent of third-graders posted failing scores on the reading portion of the FCAT and could be retained in the third grade.

Dr. Richard Itzen, director of accountability, testing and continuous improvement for the Lee County School District, said the district is happy with the scores but is still focused on improvement.

“Yes, we’re definitely pleased with the results,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve as well, but the gains were good.”

The reading scores rose by 6 percentage points, up from 71 percent to 77 percent. Math scores improved as well, rising 4 percentage points from 74 percent to 78 percent. Statewide, reading scores increased 3 percentage points and math scores increased by 2 percentage points.

Within the five-county region, Lee fared much better than Collier and Hendry counties in the math and reading scores. Third-graders in Charlotte and Glades counties scored higher in math.

Itzen indicated that 40 percent of the 740 students who have level one reading scores would advance to fourth grade due to what the state considers “good cause exemptions.” These exemptions allow the state to consider other criteria when deciding to retain students.

The exemptions include:

— Students who are learning the English language and have only been in the country for a short period of time.

— Students taking special education courses.

— If a student is retained in the same grade twice.

— Students who go to summer school and do well on another assessment test.

— Students whose “portfolios” — overall classroom performance — exhibit strong improvement.

According to Itzen, advancing students who have been held back twice can be extremely tricky.

“You have to weigh what’s the more difficult situation,” he said. “Being held back or not having the proper reading and math skills.”

Itzen added that most students, when retained, eventually acquire the skills they need and stand a better chance of future success.

“The way we look at it is some students need more time to learn those skills, if that’s the case, we prefer they repeat an earlier grade,” he said.

Itzen said the district will focus on reading when it approaches school improvement plans for next year.

FCAT scores for fourth grade through 11th grade are expected to be released in early June.