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Manatee excels in FCAT math over reading

MANATEE — Manatee students this year fared better in the math portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test than the reading portion.

Local students in all grade levels — fourth through 11th — who took the science and writing portions of the test made gains, according to results released by the state Department of Education Tuesday.

“Overall, I think we showed some improvement,” said Louis Robison, the Manatee County School District’s director of accountability. “We have some work to do and always will, but we showed good gains in math, particularly at the 10th-grade level.”

Scores are determined using five achievement levels. Students scoring a Level 3 and higher are considered at grade level. Tenth-graders need to pass the FCAT to graduate from high school. If they fail, they still have several chances to retake the tests.

Only fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders take the writing test and only fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders take the science tests.

In all, the percentage of Manatee students considered proficient in math, reading, writing and science grew in 13 of 20 grade-level categories, results show.

In math, Manatee students in sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th grades scored higher this year compared to 2009. Students in seventh, ninth and 10th grades scored higher in reading from last year.

Elementary students in Manatee didn’t do as well in reading and math. Students in fourth and fifth grades scored lower in reading compared to last year. Fourth-grade math scores also dropped, while fifth-grade math scores remained the same as the year prior.

But science scores at the elementary level were higher.

Across the state, results show an increase in proficiency by middle and high school students in reading, writing and math. Elementary grades remained relatively flat in writing and lost some ground on their reading and math performance, scores show.

Robison said he’s disappointed with fourth-grade scores.

“We will spend some time aggregating the data to see if there are some trends that will help us this next school year,” he said.

Elementary schools including Anna Maria and Willis, as in past years, consistently scored highly.

The district’s newest school, G.D. Rogers Elementary, which opened during the 2009-10 school year, did not do as well as school leaders hoped, Robison said.

For example, the district’s fifth-grade science average was 43 percent. G.D. Rogers scored a 16, just three points above Ballard Elementary, which at 13 percent had the lowest fifth-grade score in the district.

In an effort to turn that tide, Superintendent Tim McGonegal recently replaced G.D. Roger’s Principal Wendy Acosta, and hired Ann Broomes, a former assistant principal at Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary.

G.D. Rogers also is hosting a reading camp this summer, and school leaders hope to get more parental involvement and support, McGonegal said.

Like their peers statewide, Manatee students who took the science portion of the test showed gains from last year’s scores. The Manatee fifth-grade average increased from 41 to 43 percent, while the state average jumped from 46 to 49 percent.

Manatee eighth-graders netted a 38 percent in science, up from last year’s 37 percent, while the state average of 43 percent increased from last year’s 41 percent. The 11th-grade students averaged a score of 37 percent, up from the previous year’s 35 percent. The statewide average this year was 38 percent, up one point from last year’s 37 percent.

Although Manatee’s scores averaged lower than their statewide peers in writing, they still showed a dramatic increase. Manatee fourth-grade students climbed 13 percentage points, from 79 percent in 2009 to 92 percent in 2010. The district’s eighth-grade students increased in proficiency from 86 percent to 95 percent. Manatee’s writing scores for 10th-grade students jumped 22 percent — from 71 to 93 percent.

Statewide in writing, approximately 95 percent of students in grades four, eight, and 10 scored at or above 3 on the six-point grading scale. The writing portion of the FCAT is the only one to use a six-point scale.

The release of the 2010 FCAT scores — except for third grade — were delayed for weeks because of problems with the testing contractor’s computer system. Extra time was needed to ensure students’ results matched their demographic information, state leaders said. Third-grade scores were released on May 27.

To view detailed school-by-school breakdowns of FCAT reports, visit