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PRESS RELEASE

April 19, 2004

Alia Faraj
(850) 488-5394

Frances Marine or
MacKay Jimeson
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush, Lt. Governor Jennings and Commissioner Horne Announce Preliminary FCAT Results for 3rd and 12th Grade
More 3rd graders reading at or above grade level than ever before

MIAMI — Governor Jeb Bush today announced nearly two thirds of all Florida third grade students are reading on grade level, the largest number in the state's history. Of the third grade students retained when Florida ended social promotion last year, most showed significant improvement. Of the 12th grade students who did not pass last year's FCAT, the majority are enrolled in post-secondary education. The Governor was joined for the preliminary release of the third and twelfth grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) results by Education Commissioner Jim Horne and other officials at Coral Park Elementary School. Lt. Governor Toni Jennings also announced the results at Union Park Elementary School in Orlando and Skycrest Elementary School in Clearwater.

"When we ended social promotion and raised standards for our high school seniors last year, many were skeptical," said Governor Bush. "Today's results show Florida is moving in the right direction, with more students reading on grade level and significant improvement and opportunities among those who have struggled most."

The percentage of third graders scoring at or above Level 3 in reading rose to 66 percent this year, up from 63 percent last year and 57 percent when third graders began taking the FCAT in 2001. That is a 25 percent increase in the number of students reading on grade level since last year alone. Meanwhile, the percentage of third graders scoring at Level 1 in reading dropped to 22 percent from 23 percent in 2003 and 29 percent since 2001.

"In Florida, students are responding positively to the challenge set before them through high standards and accountability," Lt. Governor Jennings said. "We want to ensure that when a student leaves the classroom at the end of the year, they have achieved the necessary skills to succeed in school and in life."

Florida continues to close the achievement gap. In 2004, performance rose among all student groups, with African Americans showing a 35 percent improvement and Hispanics showing a 25 percent improvement. Limited English Proficient (LEP) students showed the most dramatic improvement — 65 percent.

Mathematics results for third graders also improved. In mathematics, 64 percent of third graders scored at or above Level 3, compared to 63 percent last year (a 20 percent improvement), and up from 52 percent in 2001. The percentage of third graders scoring at Level 1 in mathematics dropped to 17 percent this year, down from 19 percent in 2003 and 24 percent in 2001. That is 29 percent fewer children performing below basic this year than in 2003.

Last year, third graders who were unable to demonstrate basic reading skills were retained for remediation. Of the third grade students retained last year, 59 percent improved at least one achievement level on the FCAT. Approximately six percent of retained third grade students earned mid-year promotion, while 35 percent continue to have below basic reading scores. More than half of those who scored below basic (Level 1) have already met good cause exemptions, while others may still earn promotion through a portfolio or other assessment.

"Our teachers know that with additional time, guidance, and focused instruction, all of our students can succeed at reading, in higher education, and in the workforce," said Commissioner Horne. "The FCAT does not hold children back, it ensures that when they move forward they have the skills they need."

While Florida has had an exit test for more than two decades, this will be the second year that passing the tenth grade FCAT will be a requirement for graduation. This year nearly 10 percent of high school seniors may not receive a high school diploma because they did not meet the FCAT requirement. The last year the High School Competency Test (HSCT) — an eighth grade level assessment replaced by the 10th grade FCAT — was administered, about 9 percent of the graduating class failed it.

Figures released today by the Florida Department of Education show that 58 percent of the high school seniors who failed last year's FCAT are enrolled in post-secondary education in Florida. By comparison, among last year's high school graduates, 63 percent are enrolled in higher education in Florida.

The FCAT is not the sole determiner of any child's future. Parents of third graders in need of additional remediation may learn more at www.read-to-learn.org or www.justreadflorida.com.

The options available to third graders who were not successful on the FCAT include:

Summer Reading Camps. These reading camps will consist of six to eight weeks of intensive targeted-specific remedial reading instruction. The camp will include 5 ½ hours of instructional time per day, for four days a week. This is equivalent to two regular school days of reading instruction.

Reading Mentors. These mentors will work in coordination with the summer reading camps to give participating students another opportunity to improve their reading ability.

Families Building Better Readers Workshops. These workshops are designed to educate parents on simple ways to help improve their child's literacy. The sessions will also highlight strategies and methods to help their children through the remedial process.

For those 12th graders who did not pass the FCAT, there are numerous options (detailed in the enclosed Stay in the Loop flyer), including:

FCAT Remediation. For those students who completed all requirements for a high school diploma, but did not pass the FCAT, Adult Education programs provide FCAT fast track remediation classes.

GED Preparation. Those students who completed all requirements for a high school diploma, but did not pass the FCAT, may participate in an adult education program designed to fast track students into an accelerated GED prep and allow them to obtain their State of Florida High School Diploma.

12th Grade Options Hotline and Website. Students may call the Florida Department of Education's toll free line at 1-800-315-0833 to obtain individualized help planning their next step. Within the coming weeks, the Department will also launch a website to assist 12th graders who did not pass the FCAT.

Technical/Vocational Training. Students will also be counseled about high demand occupational training programs in which they can enroll while pursing their high school diploma.

Community College Acceptance. Once students earn their GED or high school diploma, they will be accepted into AS, AAS and AA Degree programs.

Full FCAT results are not yet available. For preliminary 3rd and 12th grade results, please visit http://fcat.fldoe.org.