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Schools

6th- and 7th-graders post FCAT improvements

Those classes improve in both reading and math, but the county's 10th-graders continue to struggle in reading, with less than one-third getting a passing score.

By TOM MARSHALL
Published May 24, 2006


BROOKSVILLE - Reading scores for Hernando County sixth- and seventh-graders ranked near the top of all Tampa Bay districts in the latest Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results announced Tuesday.

But the district's 10th-graders again did worse than their peers across the region on their reading test. Just 30 percent of county sophomores scored a proficient grade of 3 or above on that portion of the test, compared with 32 percent statewide and 36 percent in region-leading Pinellas County.

That showing - 2 percentage points worse than last year for Hernando 10th-graders - provoked groans from officials who have been struggling to turn around a worrisome trend. In 2001, 40 percent of 10th-graders were deemed proficient readers.

"It's dismal, to say the least," said district reading coordinator Debbie Pfenning. "But I was really, really excited about our sixth- and seventh-grade scores."

In sixth grade, 67 percent of students scored at the proficient level, an improvement of 12 percentage points from last year. And seventh-graders improved 14 percentage points, with 64 percent of students passing.

For the first time, every high school this year had a full-time reading coach to help improve teacher performance and provide direct instruction to struggling students, Pfenning said.

But while elementary schools must provide a daily 90-minute uninterrupted block of reading time to students who don't score at the proficient level, middle schools and high schools can't force students to sign up for such classes, Pfenning said.

"In some cases, if a parent doesn't want their child in intensive reading, we don't have the authority to force them," she said.

Pfenning said improvements may "filter up" to high school when elementary and middle school students who have received intensive services reach that level.

Fourth-grade reading scores dropped by 6 percentage points in Hernando, matching a statewide trend at that grade level, officials said.

"Statewide, they said it's an anomaly for the fourth-grade reading," said superintendent Wendy Tellone. "I was pleased that we did better than the statewide average in a lot of areas. But we also have a lot of areas that need attention."

In math, students at nearly every grade level posted improvements in Hernando. Sixth-graders improved by 9 percentage points, with 53 percent of students scoring at the proficient level, while seventh-graders improved by 8 percentage points and saw 56 percent of students at the proficient level.

Ninth-graders showed a decline of 1 percentage point on the math section, with 52 percent scoring at least proficient on the test.

Scores released earlier this month showed improvements in both reading and math for Hernando County third- and 12th-graders.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or 352 848-1431.

[Last modified May 24, 2006, 02:45:18]


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