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    Florida students compare nationally

    By STEPHEN HEGARTY

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001


    While educators are busy analyzing the just-released FCAT scores that contribute to their school's A-through-F grade, there is a whole mountain of other test scores not getting much attention.

    They are called norm-referenced tests, and they provide a simple and clear method of comparing our students to their peers around the nation.

    This year, it looks like Florida kids stack up pretty well.

    With the scores on this test, the national average is always 50. Anything above that mark means students are performing better than more than half their peers around the country.

    In math especially, Florida students scored well above the national average. In all but three grade levels the reading scores also were better than the national average.

    These scores don't draw as much attention nor carry as much weight as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, which also were released Tuesday. They do not figure into school grades. There are no monetary rewards from the state for good scores.

    But these scores are easier to understand and are of great help in putting the academic performance of Florida public school students into perspective.

    "I think that's the piece that's meaningful to people; they want to know how our kids did nationally," said Sam Whitten, supervisor of testing for the Hillsborough County schools.

    Last year, the first time the state gave this test in grades three through 10, some of the scores were a mess. The reading scores in grades nine and 10 were so low, the state refused to release them and conducted an investigation to find out what happened. They never did figure it out, but the scores rebounded to normal -- though not impressive -- ranges this year.

    Tampa Bay area districts did very well, compared to their peers nationally and around the state.

    For instance, Citrus County's seventh graders scored 71 in math and Hillsborough's seventh graders scored a 68, well above the state average of 61 and the national average of 50. Hernando County students were above the state and national averages in all areas except 10th-grade math.

    Pinellas and Pasco students were above state and national averages in all areas except fifth-grade math. Interestingly, fifth-grade math is the only area in which Pinellas and Pasco students did not improve on the FCAT this year.

    Though these scores are not used in Florida's accountability system, starting next year they will help Florida determine how students progress academically from one year to the next.

    Interested?

    Find your district or school scores on the Internet at www.myflorida.com. Click on 2001 FCAT Scores and then look for 2001 FCAT Norm Referenced Test Scores.

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