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Tampa Bay area students show improvement in this year's math FSA; English scores basically unchanged

Pencil laying over an exam sheet
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WUSF Public Media
The Florida Standards Assessments, which has been in place since 2015, will be replaced by a “progress monitoring” testing system next school year.

More Tampa Bay area students in grades 3-8 passed their math exams this year than last, but very little improvement was shown in English and Language Arts exams in grades 3-10.

The Florida Department of Education released more Florida Standards Assessments scores earlier this week.

It's the final set of numbers, as the assessments will be replaced by a “progress monitoring” testing system next school year. The FSA testing program began in 2015.

The latest numbers come after the department announced in early June that just 53 percent of Florida's third graders scored a passing grade or higher on the reading portion of the FSA.

Math scores for Black and Hispanic students in grades 3-8 increased six percentage points each, according to the department.

But Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said these improvements do not signal a post-pandemic return to normalcy. And there are a few complicating factors, he added.

“Student test scores in Florida are down from where they were prior to the pandemic. But a couple of things have happened — not only did we have a loss and disruption of instruction during the pandemic, including this past school year,” Spar said. “But I think what we also have to start talking about is what is the effect of the massive teacher and staff shortage on the learning process.”

More Tampa Bay students in grades 3-8 passed their math exams in this year than last, but no improvement was shown in English and Language Arts (ELA) exams in grades three to 10. This follows statewide trends.

Overall, this year's number of students passing the math FSA and end of course exams was up four percent in grades 3-8, while the percentage of passing scores for ELA in grades 3-10 was unchanged.

Below is a county-by-county breakdown comparing the percent of students who earned a passing score over the last two school years in the greater Tampa Bay region in the math and ELA exams:

Spar said the state's high stakes testing program, which has been in place for 24 years in a number of different forms, just does not work.

In 1998, about half of third graders were not reading on grade level, Spar said. This year, the same percent of students were reading below their grade level.

“This idea of testing, testing, testing, or what we call 'testing and punishment,' does not change student learning, does not improve student learning,” he said. “What does improve student learning is focusing on instructional time. Protecting that instructional time is so important.”

Although Spar says the switch to progress monitoring is the right move, he is also concerned that moving away from FSA testing will not actually mean fewer tests for students.

"We need to reduce testing. And what this transition does not do is reduce testing. In fact, it may increase testing, and that should be a concern to every parent. It is a concern to our teachers and staff in our schools, because we want to have more time for instruction,” he said.

“So reducing testing increases instructional time, that should be the focus of our state officials."

Jack Prator is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for summer of 2022.