Reading scores unchanged in Indian River, but down in Martin, Saint Lucia

Indian River County was the only school district in Treasure Coast to maintain its third-grade reading score this year, the Florida Department of Education said Tuesday.

In year two, 60% of Indian River’s third-graders achieved reading proficiency at Level 3 or above, according to records, making it one of only a dozen districts in the state to maintain or improve their scores from 2019.

At the same time, however, the districts of Martin and St. Lucia saw their scores drop by about 2% and 3%, respectively, according to the results of the 2021 Florida Standard Assessment.

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“We have reached that mark (and) which is important in the midst of a pandemic,” Indian River County Superintendent David Moore told the school board on Tuesday.

The largest drop was seen in statewide results, with Florida school districts reporting a combined drop of 4%, from 58% last year to 54% this year.

In Martin County, 52% of third-graders achieved Level 3 or above, up from 54% in 2020; in Saint Lucia, it was 47% of third-graders, up from 50% last year, according to records.

The annual test, first administered in 2015, measures student achievement at state academic standards, particularly in English and math.

This is important because the state requires any third-year student who does not achieve at least a level 2 score to repeat the third year, unless they qualify for an exemption. However, this year, due to the pandemic, students can be promoted regardless of their score.

Did COVID-19 play a role in the scores?

Throughout the year, district and state officials urged families whose students are still learning at home to send them back to class, saying in-person learning is better for students. But the report’s findings don’t necessarily show it.

Statewide, 60% of virtual students achieved a Level 3 or above, compared to 56% of innovative students and 54% of in-person students. In addition, 17% of students enrolled in distance education, 21% in innovative education and 23% of students in classroom courses obtained a level 1, the Ministry of Education reported on Tuesday.

Still, there’s a caveat about the data: just 1% of applicants this year were enrolled in a virtual school, while 74% were enrolled in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms, according to the department.

School officials in Martin County and St. Lucia weren’t too surprised by the small drop in grades for third-graders. Now they are focusing on resolving the COVID-19 slide and the learning losses that have occurred during summer school and next year.

In Martin County, planning and preparation for how best to fill learning gaps caused by the pandemic began last school year and will continue through summer school, spokesperson Jennifer said. DeShazo in a statement.

“We are treating this as baseline data and are analyzing the results so that we know what to focus on this summer and move on to next year,” said Lydia Martin, spokesperson for St. Lucia County Schools.

Still, she said, comparing test results every year may not be the best approach.

“It’s not about comparing apples to apples, because it’s a different group of students every year,” Martin said.

Going forward, the district will focus on the shortcomings of this year’s third grade students and support them as they move up to fourth grade. Staff will continue to focus on Kindergarten to Grade 2 students to ensure they are ready for Grade 3.

“With the additional summer school options, we think we’re going in the right direction,” she said.

Sommer Brugal is TCPalm’s educational reporter for Indian River, Saint Lucia and Martin counties. You can follow Sommer on Twitter @smbrugal and call him at 772-221-4231.

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