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Manatee's FCAT reading scores rise but math slips

MANATEE — Manatee County students fared better in the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, but not so in math, according to results released Thursday.

Fifth- and eighth-graders also made improvement in science, but not 11th-graders, the results showed.

In reading, more of Manatee’s fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, eighth- and ninth-graders are considered proficient compared to last year’s results. Fewer third- and 10th-graders are considered at grade level compared to last year. The passing rate for seventh-graders remained the same as last year.

In math, passing rates for Manatee’s third-, fifth-, seventh-, eighth- and 10th-graders went down compared to last year. Only the district’s fourth- and ninth-graders made gains, while the sixth-graders’ rate remained the same as last year.

“We felt pretty good about our reading scores,” said Louis Robison, the district’s director of accountability. “The math scores, we need to spend some time to look at what happened in area of mathematics.”

Changes in the state’s math standards may have affected the scores, Robison said. The trend in Manatee, in terms in gains and decreases, were similar to the state’s.

Thursday’s results also showed Manatee students lagging behind their peers statewide in reading, math and science.

Statewide, the Florida Department of Education showed that fourth- through ninth-graders in the state made gains in reading but not 10th-graders. Passing rate for third-graders remained unchanged from last year.

In math, passing rates for most grade levels are up from last year, except for seventh- and eighth-graders. Results for 10th-graders remained the same as last year.

Students scoring a Level 3 and higher are considered at grade level. Tenth-graders need to pass the FCAT to graduate high school. If they fail, they still have several chances to retake the tests. Only fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders take the science tests, and those results are counted toward a school’s grade.

Manatee’s six traditional high schools had mixed results. Bayshore, Palmetto and Southeast high schools received a D grade last year.

Bayshore High made gains in all areas except for science, and Palmetto High saw a decrease in reading, math and science scores, except for 10th-grade reading. Southeast High School saw gains in reading and math, except for 10th grade reading, which slid from 32 percent to 31 percent passing.

Southeast High Principal Mike Horne said he is waiting for more information from the state, which will desegregate the scores for disabled students and English learners. Those students’ scores are not counted toward the school’s grade.

“We don’t want to ever be a D school,” Horne said. “I hope we improve our school grade.”

Manatee High saw improvements all around, except for the dips in 10th-grade reading and 11th-grade science. The school restructured its math programs, which led to the gains, said Principal Bob Gagnon.

Last year, the school made a jump from a D in 2007 to an A, and Gagnon hopes to maintain the success.

“It’s going to be close,” he said. “All you can do is hope, and we are confident.”

In science, 81 percent of Anna Maria Elementary’s fifth-graders are considered at grade level — the highest score in the district. Only 9 percent of Samoset Elementary’s fifth-graders passed science, despite the school’s large gains in reading scores.

Anna Maria Elementary Principal Tom Levengood attributed the success in science to the gardening program at the school and the science grants that teachers have applied for and received.

Each grade level is responsible to plant and take care of a garden, he said. Grant money from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and the Southwest Florida Water Management district enabled teachers to implement more hands-on science classes.

At Samoset, the reading remediation programs and the concept of looping teachers with students — where teachers stay with the same students for two years — are paying off in reading, said Principal Scott Boyce. But the science scores are frustrating.

“There will be big changes there so this doesn’t happen again,” Boyce said. “The thing is you can teach reading in a science book so there is no excuse for not teaching science. Next year, we’ll be teaching science more and using it in all our curriculum areas.”