Last year, a little more than half of Franklin County’s third graders were tested to be proficient in English language arts, just six percentage points below the state’s 58 percent mark.

This year, the margin doubled, to a 13 percent differential, between the state’s 57 percent proficiency mark, and the district’s 44 percent of students whose score reflect that they are reading at grade level in that all-important first year of Florida Standards Assessment.

“You don’t have the same children in third grade each year, it’s a total different population,” said Apalachicola Bay Charter School Principal Chimene Johnson. “Every year looks different with the third grade.”

Last year’s, the ABC School produced a whopping 81 percent of its 37 third-graders reading at or beyond grade level, with double the percentage of 4s than state average, and better than one in 10 of the students scoring 5s, the best you can do.

At the lower end of the scale, only one in 20 of the ABC thirds graders scored a 1, much better than the one in five students statewide who read at that level. The number of 2s were also well below the state average.

This year, the numbers at the ABC School aren’t as jaw-dropping, but they still are running about on par with state averages. Of the 36 students tested. 61 percent were at 3 or better, more than half of them at the 3 level, and almost exactly at state average with 4s and 5s.

“I was disappointed in the drop but I also know the demographics of my students and know this was a different group of students,” said Johnson.

ABC fifth grade language arts teacher Sarah Kesterson, with help from ESE teacher Pam Mahr, is overseeing a summer reading camp at the ABC School for about a dozen kids. This course is required of level 1s to prepare them for an end-of-summer assessment they must pass to advance to the fourth grade.

“We ask invite our level 2s to attend as well,” said Johnson. “We highly recommend it. We feel there was some concern that some of those might fall out.

“We were happy we had few level 1s,” she said. “We want to build that reading foundation for level 2s.

“We encourage those students to come to Project Impact’s summer program. We encourage those parents to send them so they don’t have that summer slide,” Johnson said.

The May 31 report to the school board by Sue Summers, the district’s director of special programs, and Jill Rudd, principal at Franklin County School, showed that the 82 third-graders this past spring performed at right about the same level as the 68 third graders did last year.

About one in three, or 35 percent, were tested to be proficient, by their scoring a 3 or better. This percentage was identical to that in 2017 by the class that preceded them.

The number of 1s dropped slightly, from 31 percent last year to 27 percent this year, while the number of 2s increased, from 34 to 38 percent. The number of third graders scoring 3s jumped from 18 to 27 percent, while the percentage of 4s dropped from 16 to 6 percent. The number of 5s went from 1 to 2 percent, well below the state average of 9 percent in that highest category.

“A lot of schools went down,” said Board Chair Stacy Kirvin. In fact, the statewide numbers were such that the Florida Department of Education did not send out a news release when they were released, something they traditionally do.

Summers said the district is analyzing the data, and seeing what additional factors may have been at work. “Was it because of stress of testing in a later time frame? And trying to get the makeups made?” she said. “Nobody got forgotten on that last Friday we were testing kids.”

Rudd said the school showed about 86 percent of students who repeated the third grade showed learning gains, a sign of slow but steady progress. She also said the school is planning on going to a form of block scheduling next year so as to provide more instructional time for teachers to work with.