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Hastings on FCAT: “We must raise academic standards”

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By Jenna McKenna

FCAT results are in and they're a mixed bag, to say the least. Levy County School Board saw a report by Director of Secondary Education Patrick Wnek on the schools' grade-by-grade results in each subject, plus comparisons to state numbers, and a lead-in to the county's Deep FRI training for enhanced reading instruction.

Wnek showed a slide of grade-level scores in reading, math and science county-wide depicting gains or losses in the last three years. Grades four, six, eight and nine made gains or stayed the same in reading and math, and in all but one case, the gain was substantial. Grades three, five, seven and ten had losses of varying degrees in reading and math. Only grades eight and eleven gained in science; grade five had a slight loss. Reading and math are tested in grades three through ten; science is tested only in the three grades mentioned above.

The comparisons of district schools against state numbers were worse, on average, although some county schools excelled in comparison. On average, Levy schools performed below the state average in every grade level and subject except eighth grade math. School by school, however, different results emerged. Bronson, Williston, Cedar Key and Yankeetown elementary schools exceeded state averages in reading in at least one grade, and Cedar Key did it in all three grades. Williston Elementary exceeded in third and fourth grade math, and only Cedar Key fifth graders beat the state in science.

Cedar Key middle schoolers were tops in math and tied with Yankeetown for grade levels exceeding the state average in reading. Williston and Chiefland Middle also had two grades beat the state in math scores, and Cedar Key, Williston and Yankeetown had science scores exceed state average.

Among high schools, Chiefland came out best, although only their ninth and tenth-graders exceeded the state in math and eleventh-graders in science. Cedar Key bested state scores only in ninth grade reading and eleventh grade science. No grade level at any other high school exceeded the state average scores in reading, math or science.

Wnek said administrators and teachers in the district were committed to finding a solution to the schools' mixed performance.

“We can't keep doing what we've been doing,” he said.

Teachers across the county will participate in enhanced training for reading instruction next week in a program called Deep FRI, as part of Florida Reading Initiative.

“We're committed to building strong teams at the schools, starting with the principals, the APs and the teachers,” Wnek said.

“We're going to drill down all the way to the student level to figure out what we can do to improve the way we're teaching.”

Superintendent Robert Hastings thanked Wnek for his summary, saying, “There are some areas we are proud of, and we applaud those teachers and students for showing big gains. They've worked extremely hard. But there are also teachers and students who have worked extremely hard and not shown gains.” Hastings clarified that the district wasn't “embarrassed” by these students and teachers, but needed to ask, “what are we going to do to become an 'A' district with 'A' schools. I believe we can do it, but not continuing on the way we've been going. We'll have to redirect ourselves – we may see a restructuring of personnel – in order to focus on raising academic standards in our district. We can't be satisfied; we have to look at successful districts and successful teachers in our district and see what they're doing.”