HomeEducationAlachua County student performance continues to decline
Alachua County student performance continues to decline
July 18, 2022
BY LEN CABRERA
The 2021-22 school year assessment data is now available from the Florida Department of Education. As suggested by third-grade reading scores reported in May, Alachua County Public Schools has not recovered from the massive drop in student performance that resulted from their misguided policies on equity and COVID-19.
In August 2018, the school district announced an equity plan with a 10-year goal of narrowing the performance gap between white and black students. After the first year (2018-19), overall student performance dropped, and the performance gap actually increased.
COVID-19 gave school administrators an excuse to skip testing and avoid accountability for the 2019-20 school year, but the 2020-21 school year continued the trend in the wrong direction: overall performance decreased in both English and math, and the black-white gap continued to grow in both areas.
The 2021-22 data (above) shows that while average state scores in English Language Arts (ELA) improved slightly, the scores in Alachua County continued the downward trend caused by the COVID-19 response. In Alachua County, the percentage of students scoring a 3 (“meets standards”) or better in ELA fell from 53.3% to 52.1%. The black-white gap improved slightly from 46.3 to 45.0 percentage points, but despite all the school board’s efforts, the gap is essentially unchanged from 2014-15 (the earliest data in the Florida PK-20 Education Information Portal). During those seven years, the performance gap, which is simply the difference between the percentage of white students scoring 3 or better and the percentage of black students scoring 3 or better, has improved slightly in the state, dropping from 31.0 to 27.3 percentage points.
In 2021-22, the percentage of Alachua County students scoring a 3 or better in math (above) only rose from 48% to 49%, and the black-white gap held steady at 46 percentage points (68% whites vs. 22% blacks scoring a 3 or better). The math scores combine FSA results with Algebra and Geometry end-of-course (EOC) assessments. For the four years before the equity plan, the performance gap averaged 43.3 points. Since the 2018-19 year, the average is 45.3 points. The state average since 2014-15 is 30.6.
The most depressing result for Alachua County is the percentage of eighth graders scoring a 3 or better on the math FSA, which dropped from 40.0% in 2014-15 to only 20.0% in 2021-22 (compared to a state drop from 45.0% to 42.0%). That means 4 out of 5 eighth-grade students (those not in Algebra or Geometry) cannot perform math at grade level. The Algebra students are only slightly better, with EOC performance dropping 8 percentage points since the equity plan was implemented. Nearly half of the Algebra students cannot perform at grade level.
2021-22 school report cards can be found here (a summary for Alachua County is below). After most schools opted to not be graded last year, only 7 of 45 schools improved since 2019-20. Curiously, the high schools that reported a graduation rate are all over 96%, but student performance in ELA and math is barely 50% (with a high of 66% for ELA at Buchholz).
These results are not caused by a handful or bad students or bad teachers. This is a systemic problem that results from bad policy, yet the school board candidates who support the equity plan will continue to promise that they can fix the problems that their policies created. It’s time to elect school board members who think differently and will focus on teaching fundamentals and supporting teachers rather than talking about equity and hiring more administrators.
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