Standardized testing in the public schools comes with seemingly standardized results each year for Gulf District Schools.



Standardized testing in the public schools comes with seemingly standardized results each year for Gulf District Schools.

No matter what the test is called, Florida Comprehensive Assessment or Florida Standards Assessment, the results underscore district strengths as well as the challenges for the coming year.

This year’s round of FSA results, released last week by the Florida Department of Education, proved no different.

“All in all, school grades have not come out, but they are based on these scores and they confirm what we believed,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton. “We are a solid B district. We are a B district striving to improve itself.

“I have my doubts about standardized tests, but we find ourselves in the top third of districts in the state. We are on a good path.”

The upside starts with eight categories, grades or courses or both, in which the district improved by double-digits in the percentage of students scoring at grade level or above.

And those areas were over the county landscape, from fourth-grade English language arts scores at Port St. Joe Elementary to English language arts scores among seventh-graders at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School.

Those results are additionally noteworthy.

The latter scores reflect a whopping 31 point gain in the percentage of Wewahitchka seventh-graders scoring at grade level or above in English.

The former is one-part of an impressive performance among fourth-graders at Port St. Joe Elementary, who showed a gain of more than 20 points in the percentage of students at grade level or above in both math and English.

Port St. Joe Elementary was one showcase for the district.

At every grade and in every subject, save fifth-grade, students were above the state averages.

As for Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School overall, well, they also were a showcase.

The school’s students showed gains in 11 of 13 possible grade and subject categories, including in Biology, where more than 70 percent of students, for a second year, scored at grade level or above.

At Wewahitchka Elementary School, math was a highlight, including sixth-graders scoring in the 70th percentile for the second year in a row and a jump of 22 percentage points among fifth-graders scoring at grade level or above.

Other notable successes were found at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, where the percentage of students at or above grade level in geometry jumped 10 points to 87 percent, 30 points above the state average, and more than 70 percent of students scored at grade level or above in U.S. History for the second consecutive year.

“Students did very well, consistently well, in math at all schools,” Norton said. “Across the board, there are areas where we made progress and there are other places where there is room for improvement.

“We have already identified areas where we can improve.”

The challenges include four primary areas, including third-grade math in Wewahitchka, Algrebra II in Wewahitchka, eighth-grade Science in Port St. Joe and Biology in Port St. Joe, where the decline in the percentage of students scoring at grade point or above was in the double digits.

In third grade, a key testing grade for advancement, the district, combining the two elementary schools, was below the state in three of the four testing categories.

In point of fact, in the lowest three testing grades, 3-5, the combined district scores were below the state average in four of six testing categories.

Challenges are also found with seventh-grade civics scores, below the state average at both junior/senior high schools.

“We need to provide a stronger foundation in social students at the elementary level to support seventh-grade civics and U.S. History,” said Lori Price, the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

And while the number is not significantly below state averages, the district will seek to increase the number of 10th-graders passing the English language arts exam on the first attempt.

But, on the other side of the proverbial coin, Price noted as promising the number of areas in which at least 70 percent of students taking the test scored at or above grade level; third- and fourth-grade math in Port St. Joe, fifth- and sixth-grade math in Wewahitchka, eighth-grade math in Wewahitchka and Algebra and Geometry in Port St. Joe.

“That is very promising,” Price said. “What we are seeing now are highly effective teachers who have found solid footing and are maintaining an upward trend.”

Also promising are the grade or subject categories in which the percentage of students achieving gains was in the double-digits.

“When you can see steady progress from one year to the next you know that teachers are reaching students and the students are gaining ground,” Price said.