Hillsborough County Students Excel on Writing Test as FCAT Scores Plummet Statewide

Hillsborough County Public School District officials announced that fourth and 10th graders posted the second highest scores in the state on Florida’s writing test, while the eighth graders were tied for the third highest score statewide.

“When compared to ‘comparable and contiguous’ school districts (the state’s largest school districts and those in the Tampa Bay area), Hillsborough County’s fourth and eighth graders earned the highest scores, while the 10th graders posted the second highest score,” district spokesperson Stephen Hegarty said.

The release mentioned that comparisons to writing scores from previous years are difficult because the state changed the scoring for the test, placing more of an emphasis on grammar and punctuation.

However, earlier this week when it became clear that the statewide scores were alarmingly low, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said the state had not adequately notified school districts about the new expectations this year.

Results released on Monday, May 13, indicated that less than 30 percent of fourth grade students earned a passing score of 4.0 on the writing test, compared to more than 80 percent just a year ago. Results were similar for the eighth and 10th-grade.

Robinson proposed reducing the FCAT writing passing score from 4.0 to 3.5, which meant that almost half of fourth-graders have passed the test with a 3.5 or better, 52 percent of eighth-graders and 60 percent of 10th-graders.

On Tuesday, May 14, the Florida Board of Education held an emergency meeting and voted to change the score that will be used for accountability purposes.

Hegarty said that because of the change in scoring and the changes this week, the most meaningful comparison this year is to simply compare how districts and/or schools fared on this year’s test.

With that comparison, Hillsborough County students did well, exceeding the state average at all three grade levels and scoring near the top of Florida’s 67 school districts.

The state’s writing test scores range from 1.0-6.0. The average score for Hillsborough County’s fourth graders was 3.4. The average score for eighth graders was 3.5. The average score for 10th graders was 3.5. The writing test is given to students in fourth, eighth and 10th grade only.

Hillsborough County schools that stood out with their writing scores of 4.1 include Clark, FishHawk Creek and Pride Elementary Schools. Martinez Middle School eighth graders scored 4.1. Plant High School 10th graders scored 3.8, while King and Steinbrenner posted a 3.7.

Friday, May 18ths, release of test scores marks the first release of scores that ultimately result in a school grade under Florida’s accountability system.

In addition to writing scores, the state also released reading scores for ninth and 10th grade.

Hillsborough County 10th graders ranked second among comparable districts, showing a 14 percent increase in students scoring at or above the proficiency level. Hillsborough County ninth graders also showed an increase over last year’s performance.

 

For complete FCAT writing results go to the Florida Department of Education website at www.fldoe.org/