TAMPA BAY - The Florida Department of Education has released the first wave of FCAT results this morning, and Hillsborough County students' writing scores not only improved, but a higher percentage of students met and exceeded the proficiency level, officials say.
In fact, Hillsborough's fourth and eight graders were the first among all of the Tampa Bay area school districts and Hillsborough County Public Schools scored above the state at each grade level.
The Florida Department of Education put out a press release Friday morning which read in part:
"With significant gains in writing scores, Florida's teachers and students continue to show that higher expectations and support at home and in the classroom enable every child to succeed."
Those significant gains in writing prevalent throughout the state for the fourth graders who took the test in February.
Educators and students at Graham Elementary in Tampa were celebrating their big test score gains Friday as they got the news.
"Our kids worked hard," says Graham Elementary fourth grade writing teach Nikeva McCray. "They worked hard all year."
Just last year Graham Elementary, a Title I school, was known as one of the lowest performing schools in the state on the FCAT. This year is a completely different story. The fourth grade students alone boasting a 30-percent increase. McCray says thanks to teacher diligence and student focus, the school was able to jump from 60 to 90-percent of students meeting the proficiency mark in the writing portion of the standardized test.
The state credits some of those gains across the state to changes in the testing. Not only were there an additional 15 minutes given for the essay portion of the writing exam, but there was also added teacher prep training. The state says most of that training was to help them understand the scoring rubric for the writing test to better prepare their students for the test they took in February.
"Our teachers immediately took the scoring training, so that helped us a lot. We knew what to expect on our test and what to prepare for," says McCray.
Along with a great deal of proactive approaches, Graham Elementary Principal Sharon Doyle says her school's success comes from showing the students and the teachers achievement comes from within.
"It's about a self motivating thing," says Doyle. "It's not what I'm going to get for doing it. It's how I'm going to feel when it's done. [I tell our teachers] it's your job, you want to be an educator, you have to be the main motivator. Those children come first. No matter what."
On a scale of 1 to 6, a score for proficiency is considered a 3.5, and while Hillsborough's average for fourth graders was 3.4 in 2012, this year, it jumped to 3.6. The state's average is currently 3.4.
Pasco and Pinellas County schools saw some of the greatest increases in the state on the fourth grade writing portion of this year's FCAT.
The average score for eighth graders was 3.6, up from 3.5. The state average was 3.3. The average score for tenth graders was 3.6, up from 3.5. The state average was 3.5. The writing test is given to students in fourth, eighth and tenth grade only.
You can monitor the results for math, reading, and writing as they come in on the Florida Department of Education's link at http://fcat.fldoe.org/resultsFCAT2/default.asp