tampabay.com

Students improve writing on FCAT

County students fare better than they did last year but fall below the state averages at all three grade levels tested.

By MARY SPICUZZA
Published April 21, 2006


Pasco fourth-, eighth-, and 10th-graders improved in writing over the last year, but still performed below averages for students across the state. That's according to the 2006 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test writing scores released Thursday.

Writing scores for Pasco fourth-graders were noticeably lower than those of students throughout the state.

"We need to go back to look and see what could be some of the issues there," Pasco County school superintendent Heather Fiorentino said.

Sixty-eight percent of the district's fourth-graders scored a 3.5 or higher, compared with a statewide figure of 76 percent for the same grade level. A score of 3.5 or higher for writing is considered at grade level or above.

Pasco's fourth-graders also trailed students in other districts in the Tampa Bay area.

Still, Pasco fourth-graders' scores did show a slight improvement over last year, when only 66 percent scored at grade level or above.

"We have been below in the past," Fiorentino said. "We're heading in the right direction."

Fiorentino said that in 2002 the district's fourth-graders were at 47 percent.

Pasco students in grades 8 and 10 had scores much closer to the state average: 82 percent of Pasco eighth-graders and 76 percent of 10th-graders scored a 3.5 or higher, compared with 83 and 78 percent statewide, respectively.

Fiorentino said the district plans to study the results.

"We need to look," she said, "because it's important that these children have good writing skills."

Statewide, writing scores improved for fourth- and eighth-graders, while the scores of 10th-graders declined slightly.

This year's test introduced "Writing Plus," a combination of the standard essay section with a new multiple-choice section. The multiple-choice questions were designed to measure skills such as writing focus and organization.

Mary Spicuzza covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is mspicuzza@sptimes.com