Archive for the 'FCAT' Category

Statewide science scores … anyone out there actually care?

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Another year, another dismal performance on statewide science assessments here in Florida. Depending on grade level, students either took the science FCAT or Biology End of Course exam. Here’s the results compared to previous years’:

Biology End of Course
State Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
Spring 2014-2015: 65
Spring 2013-2014: 68
Spring 2012-2013: 67
Spring 2011-2012: 59

5th Grade Science FCAT
State Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
2015: 53
2014: 54
2013: 53
2012: 52

8th Grade Science FCAT
State Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
2015: 48
2014: 49
2013: 47
2012: 47

Take a look at those 8th grade numbers. They mean that for four years running more than half of the students failed the exam every year. Take a look even further back in this blog’s FCAT post archives and you’ll see that the situation has been the same since at least 2008. And you know what? No one will pay any attention. Newspaper stories will barely mention the stagnant science scores and won’t mention how long the trend has lasted. We definitely won’t hear a peep about this from politicians. Anyone care to bet on it?

Science FCAT 2012, nothing new

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

FCAT science. Grades 5 and 8 (no more high school science FCATs with the advent of the Biology end of course exams): stagnant (pdf document, scroll all the way down to page 55 … yes, page 55, heck, even the press release buried the science results.).

Not much I can add to my comments last year and the year before.

Sorry, but I just don’t feel the motivation to say the same doggone thing over and over again other that to say that about half of Florida students don’t grasp basic science, and it may not be all their fault due to the way the science FCAT is designed. Move along. Nothing more to see here.

Science FCAT 2011

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Results for Florida’s annual science exams taken by 3rd, 8th, and 11th graders were released today. The good news? Scores overall improved since last year. The bad news? The rise in scores is small, and 50 percent of our state’s students aren’t proficient in science. I’m tired of being a broken record here, so I’ll just link to my coverage of previous years’ scores (2008, 2009, 2010). It’s all disappointingly the same old story.

Today’s write up in the Orlando Sentinel opens with a focus on science, which is refreshing.

Florida students did better this year on the FCAT science exams, though fewer than half of those tested scored at grade level, results released this morning showed.

“I’m very encouraged by the continued progress we are seeing in science, but the overall performance of our students is still far too low,” said Education Commissioner Eric Smith.

Students in grades 5, 8 and 11 take the FCAT science exam. This year, 51 percent of fifth graders scored at grade level — earning a 3 or better on the five-level test — while 46 percent of eighth graders and 40 percent of 11th graders did as well.

The science scores were the highest since that FCAT exam was first given in 2003, increasing two to three percentage points at each grade level from last year.

The St. Petersburg Times’ story talks about science, too:

All three science FCATs were also used for the last time. In the future, the state will rely on science end-of-course exams in high school. It will roll out FCAT 2.0 versions of the fifth- and eighth-grade science tests next year.

Statewide, students showed improvement on all three science tests, but in no grade did more than 51 percent of students score at grade level or above.

“I’m very encouraged by the continued progress we are seeing in science, but the overall performance of our students is still far too low,” Smith said in a written statement. “Important changes have recently been made to accelerate this progress, including increased graduation requirements that include critical science courses, our next generation curriculum standards that hone in on core science concepts and our Race to the Top win that has given us additional resources to concentrate on this vital subject area.”

Lawmaker wants to dump 11th grade science FCAT

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Today, House Bill 543, “Educational Assessment”, was filed by Representative Debbie Mayfield (R). The bill text indicates that Mayfield would like to see a major change to the science FCAT.

Notwithstanding s. 1008.22, Florida Statutes, or any other provision of the law to the contrary, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in science administered to students in grade 11 shall be discontinued at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, the science assessment administered at the high school level shall be one or more end-of-course examinations. The Commissioner of Education shall select one or more nationally developed comprehensive assessments for use as end-of-course examinations. An end-of-course examination must be rigorous and standardized, approved by the State Board of Education, and administered statewide. The content knowledge and skills assessed by an end-of-course examination must be aligned to the core curricular content established in the Sunshine State Standards.

I don’t know what Mayfield’s reason for the bill is. However, it seems to make sense. Keep in mind that science FCATs carry no repercussions for students who fail it, but do affect the schools’ grades. So, it would make sense that there would be a desire to do away with the stress. Kids have been bribed by schools to take and pass this test. See a previous post about this here.

Ipods, prom tickets, limo rides — the prizes offered at American one morning last week are meant to motivate 11th-graders into taking and doing well on the upcoming FCAT science exam. While the scores won’t affect their state graduation requirements, they will count, for the first time, toward school grades.

Now some South Florida educators find themselves trying to entice 16-year-olds — even if it borders on a bit of bribery. At Michael Krop Senior High, students who score Level 3 or higher on the the science FCAT will get to sport shorts to class.

”There are a lot of kids who don’t care because they know it doesn’t matter,” said Clifton Forbes, a junior at American.

That attitude is what concerns officials most.

What’s your take? Good idea or bad?

Science FCAT “Lessons Learned”

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

The Department of Education announced today that they released a publication entitled “FCAT Science Lessons Learned: 2003–2006 Data Analyses and Instructional Implications” (pdf is here). This document was created by a Task Force that analyzed the data supplied by science FCAT scores from 2003 to 2006. The Task Force identified trends in the data and proposed some “implications” of what the findings mean for the classroom. As I thumbed through the 139-page document, I saw a common theme running through the implications.

Physical and Chemical Sciences
Grade 5, page 52
The task force recommends that instruction should include teacher-demonstrated laboratory activities (labs), as well as student-designed labs. Students should have opportunities to apply, analyze, and explain the concepts of energy, force, and motion. […] Students should move beyond knowing definitions into practical applications of the concepts to include hands-on experiences, connections to their real-life experiences, and manipulation of variables in experiments.

Grade 8, page 59
The task force recommends that instruction should include opportunities for students to investigate science concepts using a variety of laboratory activities. Instruction should provide the opportunity for students to connect concepts to real-world applications (e.g., objects sink or float according to density relative to a given medium).

Grade 11, page 67
The task force recommends that students should have the opportunity to compare and contrast, interpret, analyze, and explain chemical and physical concepts during laboratory activities and classroom discussions.

Earth and Space Sciences
Grade 8, page 77
Student should conduct laboratory activities that focus on the processes that shape the Earth (e.g., experiments with soil that demonstrate weathering and erosion).

Grade 11, page 83
The task force recommends that students should have practice explaining earth and space concepts using words and labeled diagrams. Laboratory activities can be used to model and demonstrate relationships such as plate interactions, gravity and tides, planetary motion, and climate and weather patterns.

Scientific Thinking
Grade 5, page 105
Along with this, instruction should move beyond just observations and demonstrations, and into hands-on opportunities for students to analyze (i.e., synthesize, compare/contrast, draw inferences, determine causes and effects, average, classify, categorize), draw appropriate conclusions, and apply concepts.

Grade 8, page 111
The task force recommends more inquiry-based activities followed by class discussions and written lab reports. Students should be given the opportunity to design and conduct experiments to test hypotheses (e.g., science fairs).

Grade 11, page 118
The Lessons Learned task force recommends that students practice designing experiments and using the scientific method throughout the science course. Teachers should incorporate the scientific method through more inquiry-based activities.

Conclusion, page 120
Instruction should integrate the use of the scientific process or nature of science (Strand H) throughout the other reporting clusters. Students should have the opportunity to conduct hands-on experiments in all areas of science, with analysis and reflection to emphasize the concepts and cause-and-effect relationships.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? The Task Force is recommending more labs and other hands-on work. For you teachers out there reading this, what do you think about that? Is more lab time needed? If so, can it be done?

And as an aside, I noticed this tidbit:

Life and Environmental Sciences
Grade 11, page 97
Students who are unsuccessful have the greatest difficulty with:
• explaining the processes and results of mutations and natural selection;
• predicting the impact of stress on a population (e.g., carrying capacity, limiting factors); and
• explaining the principles of ecological succession (see Sample Item 26).

More about the 2008 science FCAT

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

I’ve received a few e-mails in response to my earlier post about 2008 science FCAT results. One person suggested that we take a look at those counties with school boards that passed formal resolutions against the teaching of evolution. Below is each of those county’s 2008 Level 3 and above (on grade level and better) percentages per grade, with the 2007 results in paranthesises for comparison. This is by no means an attempt at a detailed analysis. The student populations vary from county to county quite a bit. And I’m sure there are other factors to consider.

Some counties look fine. Clay, Nassau, St. Johns counties are kicking butt. But there are some eye-popping bad things going on, too. What is the deal with Hamilton county? They were awful last year and did even worse this year. Madison county doesn’t look much better. The performance of Taylor and Washington 5th graders plummeted. Both 11th and 5th graders in Jackson county are hurting.

11th: 38(37), 8th: 40(38), 5th: 43(42)

11th: 32(38), 8th: 39(38), 5th: 34(37)

11th: 38(40), 8th: 44(42), 5th: 44(44)

11th: 43(41), 8th: 45(44), 5th: 55(51)

11th: 10(11), 8th: 19(28), 5th: 26(29)

11th: 38(33), 8th: 37(30), 5th: 42(31)

11th: 29(35), 8th: 37(33), 5th: 37(42)

11th: 30(27), 8th: 29(30), 5th: 36(37)

11th: 20(26), 8th: 20(14), 5th: 23(23)

11th: 35(37), 8th: 45(42), 5th: 50(51)

11th: 32(30), 8th: 30(31), 5th: 35(34)

St. Johns:
11th: 54(56), 8th: 55(58), 5th: 55(58)

11th: 29(25), 8th: 33(37), 5th: 26(48)

11th: 37(38), 8th: 32(36), 5th: 27(40)

Another person e-mailed me to point out that science scores aren’t going to make many leaps forward unless the same effort that was pumped into reading education in the past is pumped into science education now. Last year, the Miami Herald’s columnist Fred Grimm wrote about how the science FCAT sank oodles of schools’ grades. Gerry Meisels, University of South Florida professor of chemistry and director of the Coalition for Science Literacy, was featured in that column as a driving force behind getting science FCATs to matter. Besides Meisels’ Coalition, there is also the Florida Center for Research on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (FCR-STEM) led by Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Dr. Harold Kroto, a professor in the FSU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. There is also Florida PROMiSE, and, of course, we here at Florida Citizens for Science. So, there is no shortage of organizations and people interested in making science education in Florida a priority. Unfortunately, it takes more than that. It takes money. It takes politicians focsing attention on the problems. Combine money woes and politicians in bad economic times and you get … nothing.

What are some problems? The e-mailer told me: “Of course, the difficulty of improving science education is compounded by the fact that while nearly all teachers can read, an alarmingly large number of science teachers do not have a deep understanding of their subjects.” Not only do we need to educate the students, but we also need to educate the teachers.

2008 science FCAT scores

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Florida’s science FCAT scores were released today. For those who don’t know, the FCAT is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test given annually to all Florida public school children in grades 3 through 11. The FCAT is supposed to measure what students have learned about reading, writing, mathematics and science. The test results are a big deal, because each year all schools receive a letter grade based on these results. Of course, schools strive for As and Bs, but can really feel the heat from both the State and their local communities if they get Ds or Fs. Things get real bad if a school fails several years in a row, leaving the door open for the State to come in and take over the running of the school or shutting it down.

The science FCAT has been given to students in grades 5, 8 and 11 since 2003. For the first couple of years, the test was given to 10th graders, but in 2005 it was moved up to 11th grade. Since 2003, the science FCAT scores were no big deal since they didn’t count towards the schools’ letter grades. However, last year they did for the first time. And the poor results crashed schools’ letter grades.

For easy comprehension of the scores, the FCAT results are divided up into five categories. Students who score in levels 1 and 2 can be considered failing or real close to it. Level 1 means: “This student has little success” with the content. Level 2 means: “This student has limited success” with the content. Every student, parent and teacher hopes for level 3 and above. Essentially, level 3 means a student has some understanding of the material, but might not excel in the subject. A student at level 3 is “on grade level.” Levels 4 and 5 are hit by those students who really mastered the material and know what the heck they are talking about.

The Florida Department of Education is singing a sunny tune about how the vast majority of reading, math and science scores are up. Yes, the scores are up. But a closer look at the science scores shows that a simple rounded number or two could account for the minuscule rise. Have a look at this snapshot (pdf file). Note at the bottom of the page in fine print where is says “Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.”

Now compare 11th grade 2008 results with 2007 results. Level 1 is down one percent, Levels 2 and 3 are unchanged, Level 4 is up one percent and Level 5 is unchanged. Overall passing the test at Level 3 or higher popped up one percent from 2007 to 2008. Maybe. If the number wasn’t rounded. The percentage of those 11th graders at Levels 1 and 2, below grade level, is about 62 percent. More than half of these soon-to-be graduates simply don’t understand science, according to this test.

Fifth graders who passed (Levels 3 and above) also went up one percent. Those in eighth grade did better, climbing two percent.

The jumps in performance from 2006 to 2007 were much better. Progress seems to have slowed now, though.

Last year when FCAT results came out I talked about how the public was told that science scores in previous years suffered because so much focus was on reading, writing and math. The scores would improve now that science counts towards school grades. Doesn’t look to me like that happened. I didn’t buy it then, and I’m not buying it now. Adding to the problems I commented on in that post back then is the new requirement coming up this next year to have 30 consecutive minutes of physical activity in the elementary schools. I’m fine with physical activity, but so much of the elementary school day is taken up with mandatory instruction that this physical activity straw will break the schools’ backs. I’ve heard teachers lament that in order to add in this new 30 minutes, something else has to go. There are only so many minutes in a school day. What has to go to make room? Science and social studies.

What are your thoughts? (Other previous posts here about FCAT: Dropping the curriculum for FCAT and Take the science FCAT)

FCAT results coming

Monday, June 9th, 2008

The Gradebook says that FCAT science (and other) results will be out tomorrow. I assume the results will pop up here.