FCAT shows students' writing is improving
By JEFFERY S. SOLOCHEK
Published April 26, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Like kids all over Florida, Pasco County students continue to write well, as measured by the annual FCAT writing exam.
Fully 71 percent of fourth-graders, 83 percent of eighth-graders and 76 percent of 10th-graders earned a passing score on the essay part of the test - slightly better than last year's rates, but also slightly below the state passage levels.
Pasco students, along with their Florida counterparts, had less success with the multiple choice portion of the test. Just 53 percent of fourth-graders, 43 percent of eighth-graders and 47 percent of 10th-graders scored at or above grade level on that section, which is in its second year. The Pasco rates again were below the statewide rate.
The writing test does not affect a school's grade, nor does it count toward student retention or graduation requirements. Starting with the graduating class of 2010, seniors will have to pass the exam to earn a diploma.
When asked whether the disconnect between the two sections could imply that the students might not read as well as they write, state education officials sidestepped the question. They suggested that scores will rise as teachers and students become more accustomed to the test, as they have with the writing part, which is nearly 15 years old.
Pasco officials also focused on the positive aspects of this first round of Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results, noting that the percentage of eighth-graders earning a 5 or better on the 6-point scale for the essay had increased from 12 percent to 19 percent. They also pointed out that 175 students earned the top score on the essay test, and that Pasco High - the county's only D school - showed a significant gain in its persuasive essay score.
"They are a very proud school. They want their scores to reflect the good work that they're doing," assistant superintendent Sandy Ramos said of Pasco High, which she added has challenges that other high schools do not have, such as high levels of students who are still learning English.
Individual school results showed some promise, some cause for concern. On the downside, four elementary schools and four middle schools had one-third or fewer students achieving grade level or better on the multiple choice section.
On the upside, six elementary, six middle and two high schools had average essay scores of 4 or better on the 6-point scale.
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said the next step is to break down the data and use it to improve instruction. It's the first time that the state is providing in-depth information about student writing performance, such as how they did on organization and focus, research director David Scanga added.
Schools with overall good results are not exempted, Ramos said.
"What we want them to do is look within the data ... and not just be satisfied that they have an average high score," she said.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 813 909-4614 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.
For more results
To see a school by school breakdown of scores, you can go to the Department of Education Web site at fcat.fldoe.org/results/.