FCAT scores celebrated at Pinellas school

Improved writing scores called "exciting"

SEMINOLE, Fla. - One of the biggest hurdles Pamela Bender finds in teaching writing these days is text speak.

"The word you, is the letter, instead of y-o-u."

She says it's a problem that could become even tougher with more and more kids using texting to communicate.

"But you also have to approach that's ok for that medium, but for this medium we have to be a little bit more professional," said Bender who teaches fourth grade at Starkey Elementary school.

Bender's fourth-graders at Starkey Elementary got the message and were part of a statewide jump in writing scores on this year's FCAT.

In fact, fourth-grade students in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties scored even higher than the statewide average.

That's why Florida Education Commissioner Dr. Tony Bennett picked Starkey in Seminole to celebrate the success along with a cafeteria full of kids.

"The 9-point gains in fourth grade overall are very significant.  The 2-point gains in eighth and tenth grade are significant," said Bennett.

Third-grade math and reading scores did not improve statewide, with less than 60 percent of third graders scoring at their grade level.

Bennett says those numbers will lead to improvement down the road.

"We think with good data gives us a good place to start targeting professional development, targeting training, targeting improved instruction in our classrooms and improved learning by our students."

While the numbers are processed and examined in Tallahassee, back in Mrs. Bender class, she tells her students not stress out over the testing.

"I'm going to be happy with whatever you do, as long as you do your best.  And if they can look me in the eye and say, 'I did my best,' then I've done my job," said Bender.

State officials say because they raised standards this year, some schools might experience a dip in grades, but in the long term, students will answer the bell.

You can monitor the results for math, reading and science as they come in on the Florida Department of Education's link here:  http://fcat.fldoe.org/resultsFCAT2/default.asp

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