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District test scores: Good - or even good enough?
July 10, 2019

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The School District of Lee County reported some good news this week: Student scores on the 2019 Spring Florida Standards Assessment saw bumps almost across the board this year over last.

Among the notable achievements cited by the District were results at the middle school level where English Language Arts scores increased for all grades and sixth grade math scores jumped 6 percent with eighth grade scores jumping 13.

Ninety-five percent of students taking the Algebra end-of-course exam in grades 4-8 scored at levels 3 to 5 -- satisfactory, proficient or mastery level -- part of what the District says is a trend that stems from its offering of advanced math classes. This has helped the District move from 25th in the state to 12th for "eighth grade proficiency in math, while 7th graders continued to outperform their peers across the state," a District release announcing its accomplishments states.

Kudos. Improvement is to be commended.

But while there have been gains, we cannot agree that the District's numbers are "good" as the percentage of children scoring below minimum standards remains far too high and Lee continues to lag behind both state benchmarks -- low as they are -- and neighboring school districts up and down the coast here in Southwest Florida.

We'll illustrate with English Language Arts results, a benchmark we believe to be key as learning is predicated on strong reading and writing skills.

For grades 3-10, statewide overall performance saw a 1 percent bump, from 54 to 55 percent, in the number of children scoring at level 3 or above on the five-tier scale, i.e. meeting satisfactory standards or better.

Broken down by school level; statewide in elementary grades 3-5, overall performance bumped 1 point to 57 percent of all students at least meeting satisfactory standards. Middle school grades 6-8 also saw a 1 percent bump, to 54 percent, as did high school grades 9-10; also to 54 percent.

Note that these scores mean that 40 percent-plus of students statewide did not meet "satisfactory" standards, scoring at level 2, below satisfactory, meaning they are "likely to need substantial support for the next grade or course;" or at level 1, inadequate, meaning they are "highly likely to need substantial support for the next grade or course."

Lee's numbers are lower on all counts with only 53 percent of students grades 3-10 scoring at level 3 or above, yes, up a point from 2018. For grades 3-5, 55 percent of students scored at level 3 or above, up two points; for grades 6-8, 53 percent achieved minimum standards, up a point; while the numbers for grades 9-10 remained flat year-over-year with 50 percent of students scoring at level 3 or above. And so half not

Meanwhile, neighboring school districts up and down the coast in Southwest Florida -- Collier, Charlotte and Sarasota -- exceeded Lee's numbers across the board in English Language Arts with just two grade-group exceptions in Charlotte County.

A couple of things.

The School District of Lee County has an awful lot going for it academically, with some top-ranked schools and programs. The District provides a competitive education that benefits a lot of kids. It is working to better serve all of its students.

But the numbers tell us that there still are many children -- far too many children -- who need more than they are getting.

When 47 percent of children in grades 3-10 have below satisfactory or inadequate language arts skills, we have a problem.

A percentage point "jump" or two doesn't cut it, especially if your child is among them.

We'd like the District to acknowledge this side of the test scores equation.

We'd like the District to address it.

And we'd really like to see numbers that validate it's self-touted claim that ... "year after year our scores illustrate our commitment to achievement."

The District may argue that what we are doing is good.

But for too many, it doesn't even meet the standard of good enough.

- Neighbor editorial

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