The Florida Department of Education released the scores from the fourth- to 10th-grade reading, science, and math sections of the FCAT 2.0 on Friday, and the results are disheartening -- reading and mathematics scores seem to be stagnant or declining throughout the state.
The FCAT 2.0 is a test measuring achievement in reading, science, and math for students grades 4-10. Students are given scores 1-5 on the FCAT. In order to receive a passing score, students must receive a 3 or higher on the test.
Statewide reading scores saw a slight increase in grades 3, 6, 8, 9 and 10. The largest increase was for 10th-graders, whose passing rate increased from 50 percent last year to a 54 percent passage rate in 2013. The remainder of the increases were only 1 or 2 percent higher than last year.
Math scores largely went down in 2013. The only grade that went up in its passing rate was the fourth-grade, with an increase of 1 percent. Eighth-graders passing rate plummeted 6 percent this year -- only 51 percent passed the mathematics portion of the FCAT.
The 2013 FCAT results released Friday did show a higher percentage of students passing Floridas 10th-grade reading and algebra 1 exam. Fifty-four percent of students passed the reading exam this year, up 4 percent from last years results. Sixty-eight percent passed the algebra 1 exam, an 8 percent increase from last year.
Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett was disappointed with this year's results.
"The FCAT results are flat and I find that unacceptable," said Bennett.
"I think it has to do with focus, frankly. I think we have to return to a rigor and a concentration on writing, reading and math at the elementary levels, the commissioner said.
Bennett did, however, laud the results of the end-of-course exams this year, calling them this seasons testing success story. Students must take and pass these exams in order to graduate high school. Some end-of-course exams can count for a large portion -- nearly 30 percent -- of a student's grade.
A new law changed the requirements for end-of-course exams, making algebra the only type of exam required for every student. A lot of students took end-of-course exams anyway because they assumed they needed to take the tests in order to pass and graduate.
But even though these exams werent required for every student, the ones who did take the tests were more successful this year. In 2013, 64 percent of students who took the geometry end-of-course test passed. Last year, only 56 percent passed. The numbers also went up for students who took the biology end-of-course exam -- 67 percent passed this year, an 8 point increase from 2012.
In order to fix the stagnant FCAT test results, Bennett said the Common Core State Standards will be instituted to help bring scores back up. According to its website, the Common Core State Standards is an educational initiative to help students prepare for success in college and onward.
Florida plans to adopt the standards for the 2014 school year. Forty-five other states have already adopted the Common Core.
State assessment results let Floridians know what grades and subjects we need to focus on. This years FCAT results show we need to refocus on the core elements of education reading and mathematics, said Patricia Levesque, executive director for the Foundation for Floridas Future. Florida has built a solid foundation and its never easy when the bar is raised, but we need further action, and these FCAT results are a reflection of this need."
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.