Tens of thousands of kids are flunking state math exams, from grade to grade

In an alarming trajectory, Florida public school students for the most part scored worse on state math exams as they continued from 3rd to 8th grade, according to state testing results released Friday.

The 2019 scores showed 62 percent of 3rd graders passed the state math exam, and 64 percent of 4th graders passed.

But performance plummeted after that:

Sixty percent of kids passed the exam in 5th grade; 55 percent, in 6th grade; 54 percent in 7th grade and just 46 percent in 8th grade – when students need to make the leap to high school and higher level math.

What’s worse is that “passing” the math exam in 3rd through 8th grades doesn’t mean a child is proficient.

The Florida Department of Education allows students to pass the exam with a “satisfactory” score – an achievement Level 3 — defined as “may need additional support for the next grade/course.”

It’s the higher achievement levels – 4 and 5 – that show kids are proficient or have an even greater mastery in math.

In that scenario, only 22 percent of 8th graders were considered proficient or higher – the lowest performance of all grades tested in elementary and middle school math.

Overall, 36 percent of 3rd graders were considered proficient or higher (Levels 4 and 5) and 38 percent of 4th graders were considered proficient or higher.

After that, the percentages took a dive – 37 percent of 5th graders were considered proficient or higher;  30 percent of 6th graders were, and 28 percent of 7th graders were considered proficient or higher.

The Phoenix wrote about reading results earlier, showing only 30 percent of 3rd grade students were considered proficient or higher in reading, based on the 2019 state exams. In 4th through 10th grade, the situation was similar – about 30 percent of kids were considered proficient or higher.

However, the state focuses on “passing” the reading exam, which creates a rosier picture of student performance. Between 3rd and 10th grades, the passing rate in reading ranged from 52 to 58 percent.

In an agency news release, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran touted “improved state assessment results and highlighted the later, shorter spring testing window that enabled students to spend more time in the classroom learning and teachers more time teaching.”

 

 

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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