This school year, only 1 in 4 Florida third graders were proficient at reading, and it signals an alarming trend in education.
In most states, the third grade is a crucial year for young readers. As one of the most critical academic skills, many states tie in third graders’ ability to advance to the next school year to their reading proficiency at the end of the year. But like much else in education, more students are falling behind in this category. The problem is especially dire in Florida, where information was just released showing that this school year, only a quarter of all Florida third graders were found to be proficient in reading.
To understand these findings, reported by the Florida Phoenix, it is important to understand this grading system in Florida for third graders. At the end of the year, these students take the Florida FSA. Students can pass without being proficient, which means they receive a grade of 3. However, this satisfactory score means that students will likely struggle in the fourth grade and on, and possibly will need intervention. Scoring 4 lands them as proficient in reading. Likewise, a scoring of 5 depicts mastery and high prospects to excel.
To make the situation even more alarming, only half of Florida third graders scored a passing grade of satisfactory this school year on the reading exam. Only 53% passed the test, which is down one percent from 54% last year. Also reported, while only 1 in 4 were considered proficient, a mere 6% showed mastery of the subject. These findings were also down from last year’s test results.
Additionally, the reports from the state’s Department of Education depicted widespread disparity across the state’s 67 public school districts. The percentage of Florida third graders proficient in reading was as high as 51% in some areas and as low as 4% in others. Despite these foreboding results, some are hopeful that the next few years will show signs of reversal, while others point to a more sinister outlook.
Many education experts in the state feel that the dismal findings from Florida’s third graders this year are still part of the aftermath of learning loss felt during the COVID pandemic. Gadsden County Superintendent, Elijah Key, feels that the pandemic is partially to blame for such low proficiency, just as with last year. Key noted that he was not surprised at all by these reports. He said that schools are still recovering from setbacks of school closures, and he believes grades will soon bounce back.
But others are skeptical, as this year’s low Florida third grader proficiency rates mirrored test results even before the onset of the pandemic. Patricia Levesque, the executive director of Foundation for Florida’s future, called these findings “troubling.” Resonating with education experts’ beliefs that reading proficiency signs in third grade can oftentimes make or break a child’s success for the rest of their school career, she is worried for these students’ future.
Despite all this data on Florida third graders, this school year will be the last that children will be given this FSA exam. The state recently passed a law doing away with the standardized tests, in favor of a new system called progress monitoring. The hope is that the new testing module will boost student performance over time. For now, only time will tell whether or not the new system will make a difference in reading proficiency for the Sunshine State.