MANATEE -- Nearly every school in Manatee County improved its writing scores in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test compared to last year, according to results released Wednesday by the state’s Department of Education.
Fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders took the test earlier this year. The writing test is scored on a range of 1-6 with 6 representing the top score. Scores released Wednesday showed students who scored a 4.0 or higher on the FCAT.
Currently, a score of 3.5 is considered at proficiency or grade level. However, officials with the Florida Department of Education will likely raise that passing score to 4.0 later this month.
Manatee County officials said each grade level improved. Fourth-graders increased by 16 percentage points over last year, going from 58 percent to 74 percent passing the test. Last year, 71 percent of the eighth-graders scored at level 3.5 or above. This year, 77 percent scored at a 4.0 or above, increasing by 6 percentage points. Tenth-graders improved by 11 percentage points over last year, going from 63 percent passing the test to 74 percent scoring at 4.0 or higher.
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“We are extremely proud of the hard work put in by our students, teachers, administrators and support staff,” Superintendent Tim McGonegal said. “The overwhelming majority of our students are making strong gains in writing and we’re excited about their continued progress.”
Schools that made the biggest gains over last year were: Kinnan and Rogers elementary schools; Johnson and Lincoln middle schools; and Central and Southeast high schools. Administrators said there were “concentrated efforts” made to ensure students were comfortable with writing.
Central High went from 43 percent passing last year to 63 percent scoring 4.0 or higher, according to school records.
Central Principal Carl Auckerman said he and his staff at the alternative school set out to “establish a positive relation with the kids this year. There’s a real positive tone here.”
Johnson Middle teachers have been working throughout the year to increase their writing scores. Principal Omar Edwards said it was a team effort to increase the scores.
“Teachers have really been committed to the cause,” he said. “Everywhere the students went, we encouraged them.”
Last year, 63 percent of Johnson Middle students scored at a passing level or higher. This year, 77 percent of the students scored at 4.0 or higher. Six students who scored a perfect 6 on the test will be rewarded with iPod touches, Edwards said.
G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary saw huge gains over last year when 43 percent of students scored at passing levels or higher. This year, 74 percent scored 4.0 or higher on the test.
“I’m very excited,” Principal Ann Broomes said about the scores. “We really spent a lot of time focusing on strategies and ... getting students comfortable with writing.”
Broomes said she and her staff kept a binder of students’ writing samples in the lobby.
“It definitely gave students a sense of accomplishment and pride,” she said.
Elementary school students were given a prompt or sentence and asked to write in either narrative or expository format. High and middle schoolers were tested on expository or persuasive writing. The writing portion of the FCAT has no weight in determining whether a student is promoted. However, the scores will be used to calculate school grades. Grades for elementary and middle schools will be released during the summer. High school grades will be released in the fall.
Individual student scores on FCAT writing will be mailed to districts by May 12.