The following front page article features Palmetto Elementary School’s triumph on the FCAT. Palmetto is one of our Love Pantry locations. The Love Pantry: Removing hunger as a barrier to learning. #lovepantry http://touch.orlandosentinel.com/#section/1229/article/p2p-80427589/
FCAT scores in Central Florida go up over 2013
FCAT scores released and show improvement in most areas
Most Central Florida schools posted higher scores on FCAT exams this year compared with 2013, results released Friday showed, but Palmetto Elementary School in Orange County stole the show with double-digit gains.
The south Orlando school, graded an F in 2013, saw strong improvement on almost every FCAT exam, with the biggest jump on the fourth-grade math test. This year, 65 percent of Palmetto students scored at grade level on that test compared with 24 percent in 2013.
Across Orange, elementary students made strong gains in math, as they did in Volusia County, where the percentage scoring at grade level increased from 55 percent last year to 60 percent this year.
In Lake County high school students boosted reading scores, and in Osceola County across-the-board improvements earned recognition from the state.
Seminole County remained the region’s high-performing leader, with average scores well above the state’s, but showed more modest increases than the others. The district had the best scores among the state’s 17 largest school districts, leaving Superintendent Walt Griffin “over-the-top thrilled.”
In Seminole, for example, 68 percent of middle schools students were at grade-level in reading, compared with 58 percent statewide.
The statewide results released Friday are the last from the reading and math sections of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. They will be replaced next year by the Florida Standards Assessments, standardized tests for language arts and math aligned to the state’s new Common Core standards.
At Palmetto, district leaders came to the school Friday for pep-rally-like news conference, cheering and clapping for its staff. Bill Sublette, chairman of the Orange County School Board, called the school’s achievement “nothing short of remarkable.”
But a shy 12-year-old in a polka-dot dress may have summed up the school’s success most succinctly.
The school year was “awesome because of my teacher. She helped me a lot,” said Stecie Roberts, who like many Palmetto students is a Haitian immigrant for whom English is her second language. On FCAT, Stecie added, “I did really good.”
Fourth graders like Stecie posted a 26-percentage point gain on FCAT reading compared with 2013, while fifth graders had a 23-point gain in science and third graders improved math scores 30 percentage points.
The 10th-grade reading test is among the most important of FCAT, which includes standardized exams in math, reading, science and writing taken by nearly 2 million public school students.
Students must pass 10th-grade reading to earn a high school diploma. This year, the percentage passing increased in most districts, with the biggest local gains in Lake, where 54 percent were at grade level compared to 49 percent last year. The state average was 55 percent.
The thousands of students who did not pass, including more than 6,000 in Orange, will have to retake it.
In all, the Florida Department of Education released FCAT reading scores for grades 4 to 10, FCAT math scores for grades 4 to 8 and FCAT science scores for grades 5 and 8. It had previously released scores for FCAT writing and math and reading scores for third graders.
As part of Florida’s controversial school-accountability system, the scores are used to help make student class assignments, evaluate teacher quality and grade public schools A to F.
Palmetto, located off south Orange Blossom Trail, faces the challenges of many urban schools. Just about all of its 1,100 students live in low-income families, more than half are learning English and many move throughout the school year, disrupting their education.
Principal Angela Murphy-Osborne, tapped to take over the school last summer, also had lots of teacher turnover to contend with. But she said she tried to focus all her instructors on teaching to the curriculum standards and hired an extra attendance clerk to make sure no one missed too many classes. “We’re an incredible team together,” she said.
Teacher Lourdes Quinones Santiago said both she and her daughter, Alysha Delgado, 9, struggled at the start of the school year after a move from Puerto Rico. Santiago had been a teacher of the year on the island but said she did poorly on her first evaluation at Palmetto.