Only 14 percent of Palm Beach County high school seniors retaking their reading FCAT passed the test this spring, the rest missing their last opportunity to do so in order to graduate with a high school diploma.
The state Department of Education last week quietly released the results of 12th-grade retakes on the math and reading FCATs.
With few exceptions, the 10th-grade math and reading FCATs are required for graduation with a regular diploma.
The retake results come as school districts throughout Florida gear up for the yearly release of FCAT and other standardized test scores. First up are expected to be the third-grade reading and math scores, as well as the writing FCAT scores. These results could be released as early as Friday.
Students who did not originally pass their sophomore-year FCATs in reading or mathematics are allowed to re-test in both the fall and spring of their junior and senior years. That means, that by the spring FCAT retakes, seniors may have already failed the FCAT as many as four times.
This year, only 18 percent of county seniors passed their math FCAT retakes, compared with 21 percent of seniors statewide, according to state education department data. Statewide, 17 percent of seniors passed the reading FCAT retake.
Retake scores are traditionally low because the students retaking the tests are those who have failed it in the past and have not been able to get a sufficient substitute score on a different test, according to a district memo about the scores.
This year’s math retake scores are about on par with last year, when 19 percent of county high school seniors passed that test, according to the state Department of Education. Last year, the majority of seniors needing to retake the reading FCAT sat for the older FCAT 1.0, with 13 percent of 1,506 students passing that. This year, most students retook the newer reading FCAT 2.0.
“Our students, in terms of retakes, are taking a more rigorous assessment now because they phased out the FCAT 1.0,” said Frank Rodriguez, the district’s assistant superintendent of quality assurance.
“We’ll continue to provide services for a student to try to get them to meet those graduation requirements,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a goal for all of us.”
Those seniors who didn’t pass might be able to substitute a certain score on college entrance exams — such as the SAT or ACT — or they can get a GED. They also have the option to enroll in any community college in the state with a Certificate of Completion by taking the Post-Secondary Readiness Test, according to the education department’s website.
Over the next month or so, the department will begin releasing scores on FCAT exams, end-of-course exams and elementary and middle school grades.
In addition to the third-grade reading and math FCAT scores, the writing FCAT — which is taken in grades 4, 8 and 10 — are expected to be released soon. Last year, scores on the writing FCAT nosedived after the state instituted more stringent scoring on the test, forcing the state to lower the bar for proficiency from a 4 out of 6 to a 3 out of 6.
This year, the bar is being raised up to a 3.5 on the writing FCAT, and the tougher grading standards will remain, but students were given an extra 15 minutes to write their essay.