BRADENTON -- The state has released percentile scores from more rigorous state testing, and Manatee County students continue to struggle with state standardized tests as more than half fall in the bottom 50 percent.
The new results do not show pass/fail rates because those have not yet been set by the state. But the new numbers released Wednesday show the percentage of students in each district who scored in the bottom 25 percent, the top 25 percent and the two middle areas, based on the raw scores.
For example, for algebra 1 in Manatee County, 55 percent of local students fell at or below the state median, while 45 percent are above the state median. On the English language arts exam, 54 percent scored at or below state median and 46 percent were above state median.
The information released Wednesday does not match individual student scores to the Level 1 through 5 achievement categories. A Level 3 or above on the state tests is considered "passing." Because last year was the first year of a new test, based on new state standards, the state is still working to set the new achievement levels.
For the most part, students who are in the top two percentile ranges will probably earn a passing grade once the results are converted to the Level 1 to 5 format, Manatee Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cynthia Saun
"If they're in that range, the odds are in their favor," she said.
The state released preliminary achievement levels Monday, but the State Board of Education will have to approve those levels in either December or January before they become final. Until then, the districts will not be able to tell how many of their students passed or failed the new exams.
Overall, Manatee County students were evenly distributed among the four categories.
Of Manatee County students taking the algebra I exam, 28 percent of students scored in the bottom 25 percent statewide; 27 percent of students were between 26 and 50 percent; 22 percent of students scored between 51 and 75 percent; and 23 percent of students scored within the top 25 percent.
For Manatee County students in grades three through eight taking the math exams last spring, 27 percent of the students scored in the bottom 25 percent of students across the state; 26 percent scored between 26 and 50 percent; 25 percent scores between 51 and 75 percent ;and 23 percent scored within the top 25 percent of all students who took the test.
Of students in grades three through 10 who took the new English language arts exam in Manatee County, 29 percent scored in the bottom 25 percent; 25 percent of the students scored between 26 and 50 percent; 24 percent of students scored between 51 and 75 percent; and 22 percent of students scored within the top 25 percent of all students who took the test.
For Manatee County students who took the algebra 2 exam, 18 percent scored in the bottom 25 percent across the state, 25 percent of students scored in the 26 to 50 percent, 27 percent of students scored between 51 and 75 percent and 31 percent scored in the top 25 percent.
For Manatee County students who took the geometry exam, 28 percent scored in the bottom 25 percent across the state; 24 percent of them scored in the 26 to 50 percent range; 24 percent scored in the 51 to 75 percent range; and 24 percent of students scored in the top 25 percent.
Not all of the estimates from the state will add up to 100 percent of the students who took the test, state officials said, because of the way the state rounded the information.
While the state continues setting the new benchmarks for scores, the districts will be able to use the percentile information as a guide to see how the students did.
To Saunders, the exams show where the district excels compared with the state and where there are some weaknesses. Overall, Manatee students tend to do better on the math exams than on the English language arts exams, signaling more effort needs to go into those areas. Another area of focus is third grade, where Manatee students struggle both in math and English compared to the state.
"We obviously have to look then at the lower levels," Saunders said, adding the district probably needs to beef up voluntary pre-kindergarten and work with elementary teachers to make sure the students are prepared by the time they reach grade 3.
In a year of change, both within the state and within the Manatee district, Saunders said she is proud of the teachers, students and school administrators for their hard work.
"We're really proud of our baseline year," she said.
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents, who released a statement last week saying superintendents had lost all faith in the state accountability system, released another statement Wednesday, saying the system is flawed and incomplete.
"In order for Florida to remain a leader in school reform and accountability, we need to pause and revamp the flawed and incomplete process upon which Florida's accountability system is based. Failure to do so at this time, will certainly further undermine Florida's accountability system," the statement reads.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.