A look at the recently released standardized test results for Franklin County’s two public schools reveals lots of good news, especially when it comes to math scores.
At Franklin County School, where the administration embarked last year on a renewed emphasis on math, the percentage of students performing at grade level or better rose at every grade level.
Among third graders, the percentage nearly doubled, from 15 percent last year to 29 this year. Among fourth graders, the percentage rose to 57 percent at grade level, especially noteworthy since this was the class that had performed at just a 15 percent level one year ago.
Among Franklin fifth graders, more than 60 percent were at grade level, a 10 percentage point improvement and the highest percentage among all the grade levels.
While there was, once again, a drop-off in performance among Franklin sixth and seventh graders compared to the younger grades, both these middle school classes saw improvement, to roughly 40 percent at grade level. An impressive rise was seen among Franklin eighth graders, where more than half were at grade level, better than the 34 percent last year and the 25 percent two years ago.
Interestingly, at the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, the percentage of fifth graders performing at or above grade level was identical to that of Franklin fifth graders, 61 percent. But among its sixth, seventh and eighth graders, Franklin once again saw a slide backwards among students at grade level.
At the same time, the ABC School saw even higher percentages of top performers in its middle school students, topped by a whopping 82 percent of its seventh graders at grade level or better in math.
Among ABC School eighth graders in math, the percentage at grade level or better was nearly as strong, at 75 percent, more than 41 percentage points better than at the charter school two years ago.
Reading shows declines among sophomores
In terms of reading scores, Franklin’s fourth grade was the only grade level to have at least half of its students perform on the standardized test at or above grade level. In contrast, each of the ABC School’s grade levels had at least 60 percent of its students at or above grade level, with a high of 75 percent of its sixth graders at grade level.
One trend seen in the reading scores at the Franklin School is that the percentages at grade level or better in the lower grades – third through sixth – are all lower than they were two years ago, and in the case of third-graders significantly lower.
In contrast, the percentages in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades are all better than they were two years ago, and in the case of the freshmen, significantly better, with nearly half now at grade level while it was just one-third two years ago.
Among sophomores, though, the percentage at grade level or better in reading drops to a dismal 27 percent, which means only a tad better than one in four students can read at their grade level. This is a drop of 11 percentage points below last year’s 38 percent.
Writing scores see jumps
In terms of writing scores, with the test administered only in the fourth and eighth grades, Franklin students improved by six percentage points, to 47 percent at grade level, slightly better than the ABC School’s 44 percent. In the case of the charter school, the fourth graders saw a sharp rise from last year’s 28 percent at grade level.
“It was significant and they were thrilled,” said ABC School Principal Chimene Johnson.
Among eighth graders, at Franklin, only one in four was tested as proficient in writing, while at the ABC School, it was half the students. Among Franklin sophomores, the percentage improved to 42 percent at writing proficiency, a 10 percentage point jump.
The state moved gave students an entire hour, 15 more minutes than last year, to do the writing exam, and set 3.5, rather than 3.0, as the threshold for indicating proficiency. Still, the entire test perplexes educators like Johnson.
“With reading and math, the data is right there in front of you,” she said. “With the writing, the only thing you get back is the scores and a sample of the essay.
“There’s no feedback from the state on why that child scored a 3.5, no real clear indication,” said Johnson. “It’s been hard for teachers to judge, not real good indication of feedback. Do I focus on mechanics more? A rich vocabulary? Transitional phrases? To me this a very frustrating assessment.
“You should allow students to go back and proofread an essay. I feel like that’s the opportunity the students need.”
In terms of science, which is given in the fifth and eighth grades, the ABC School had two-thirds of its students at grade level better. In the case of the eighth graders, it was a jump of 15 percentage points.
At Franklin School, slightly more than half the fifth graders showed proficiency in science, an improvement over the previous year. Among eighth graders, there were 43 percent at grade level or better, a jump of 13 percentage points.
With the trend towards school choice shown when parents place their children in either of the two schools, or migrate to neighboring counties, ABC School educators make clear how their school compares. A look at state averages, and at performances in neighboring Gulf, Wakulla and Liberty counties, show just how well the school is doing.
“I am extremely proud of all our students and staff who surpassed state averages on all subjects in all grades four through eighth,” said Johnson. “Most levels and subjects surpassed other schools in surrounding districts.”