Education

Manatee students see mostly lower test scores in limited release

MANATEE ­­-- A first round of this year's state testing scores were released Friday afternoon, and the percentage of Manatee County passing the exams dipped in almost every category. The district also falls below state averages in a number of categories.

The state released testing results for science exams given to students in grades five and eight, and end-of-course state exams for U.S. history, civics and biology I. The results were released by the Florida Department of Education just after 4 p.m.

Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene said she expected at least some of the test scores to decline.

"It wasn't a surprise to me that we made a few steps backward because of all the changes this year," she said. "We had a lot of changes that

-- at least at the district level -- took our focus away from what was happening in the classroom."

Greene said some of the changes at the district level, moving to a new email system, moving to a new data system, rolling out new teacher evaluations, switching to new textbooks and not providing enough teacher training or support early enough in the year weakened the focus on teaching and learning.

"I commend our teachers and our students for working hard throughout a difficult year," she said.

Compared to last year, the percentage of students who passed civics increased by 4 points and U.S. history remained steady across the state. The percentage of students who passed grades five and eight science dropped by 1 point and the percentage of students who passed biology 1 dipped 3 points.

The majority of state test results won't be out until September, or even later, as the state has ordered a "validity study" of the tests that are tied to the new Florida Standards Assessments, based of Common Core standards. The FSA replaced most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, as Florida's key standardized exam.

But the state kept FCAT science exams for students in grades five-eight. It also kept its science and social studies end-of-course exams, which count for 30 percent of a student's final grade in those courses.

In Manatee County:

Of 3,477 students who took the grade 5 science exam, 45 percent earned at least a passing grade, a drop from 50 percent who earned a passing grade last year. Manatee falls below this year's state average, where 53 percent of students earned at least a passing grade. In Sarasota County, 70 percent of the students earned at least a passing grade.

Of 3,412 students who took the grade eight science exam, 42 percent earned at least a passing grade, a drop from 47 percent who earned a passing grade last year. Manatee falls below this year's state average, where 48 percent of the students earned at least a passing grade. In Sarasota County, 70 percent of the students earned at least a passing grade.

Of the 44 students who took the biology 1 end-of-course exam in the fall 2014, 50 percent earned at least a passing grade. That's above the state average for that period, where 39 percent of the students earned a passing grade or higher. In Sarasota County, 82 percent of the students earned a passing grade or higher in the fall.

Of the 28 students who took the biology 1 end-of-course exam in the winter 2014, 54 percent earned at least a passing grade. That's below the state average for that period, where 57 percent of the earned a passing grade or higher. In Sarasota County, 75 percent of the students earned a passing grade or higher in the winter.

Of the 3,054 students who took the biology 1 end-of-course exam in the spring 2015, 63 percent earned at least a passing grade, a drop from the 68 percent of students who earned at least a passing grade last year. That's below the state average for that period, where 65 percent of the students earned a passing grade or higher. In Sarasota County, 74 percent of the student.

Of the 41 students who took the U.S. history end-of-course exam in the fall 2014, 61 percent earned at least a passing grade. That's above the state average for that period, where 52 percent of students earned a passing grade or higher. In Sarasota County, 92 percent of students earned a passing grade or higher in the fall.

Of the 18 students who took the U.S. history end-of-course exam in the winter 2014, 44 percent earned at least a passing grade. That's below the state average for that period, where 59 percent of students earned a passing grade or higher. In Sarasota County, 72 percent of the students earned a passing grade or higher in the winter.

Of the 2,659 students who took the U.S. history end-of-course exam in the spring 2015, 65 percent earned at least a passing grade, a drop from the 68 percent of students who earned at least a passing grade last year. That's just shy of the state average for that period, where 66 percent of students earned a passing grade or higher. In Sarasota County, 74 percent of the student earned a passing grade or higher in the spring.

Of the 3,601 students who took the civics end-of-course exam in the spring, 61 percent earned at least a passing grade. That's below the state average, where 65 percent of students earned a passing grade or higher. In Sarasota County, 71 percent of students earned at least a passing grade or higher.

In the fall and winter, not enough Manatee or Sarasota county students took the civics end-of-course exam to be graded by the state. Last year was the first year students took the civics exam, and those results were treated as baseline results.

Moving forward, Greene said this year's numbers will become the baseline for the district moving forward. Teaching and school training programs have already started. For example, Greene said 200 math teachers have already been trained in the new textbook.

Three out of the five early release days next year will be school based, Greene said, allowing schools to choose the topics and training most necessary for their schools. The data management systems are in place for next year and the district will go back to having quarterly assessments and multi-tiered support systems in place.

"We are starting well ahead of the curve this year moving forward," Greene said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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