Florida’s 3rd Grade Reading Scores Show Troubling Trend

Florida’s latest third-grade reading scores report has shown only one-quarter of students are able to read proficiently. The latest numbers from the Florida Department of Education were released recently, numbers which indicate students are struggling across the state, based on their performance on the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).

The state education department defines “proficiently” as scoring a four or five on a scale of one through five. A level three is considered passing, and just over half of Florida’s students passed at 53 percent.

The passing number has gotten lower in the past few years, most recently peaking in 2017 and 2019 at 58 percent. However, the 2015 number matched this year’s 53 percent.

Certain rural counties were also some of the lowest-performing. The lowest percentage of passing third-graders, 19 percent, was found in Jefferson County.

Hillsborough County School District officials, encompassing Tampa, said that the effects of lockdown schools and at-home learning greatly disrupted scores in their district.

“Nearly 1,000 more third-grade students were tested this year compared to last year, and many of these students learned from home during some or all of 2020-2021,” Tanya Arja, a communication official with Hillsborough Schools, said. “With now 99 percent of third graders tested this year, we are now finally getting a complete picture of the impacts that disrupted and at-home learning caused.”

Similarly, Gadsden County only had a rate of 27 percent, while Madison County came in 39 percent.

Gadsden County Superintendent Elijah Key said they are “greatly disappointed” but “not surprised” at their county’s low score.

Conversely, the counties surrounding Jacksonville had some of the highest scores in the state. Clay County had a passing rate of 61 percent, Nassau County’s rate was 64 percent, and St. Johns County had one of the highest scoring rates at 76 percent of third-graders passed.

Overall, the highest performer was Florida High School, the charter school affiliated with Florida State University.

The largest year to year increase in passing students was accomplished by Dixie County with 8 percent more students passing than the previous year. Lafayette County, however, had the largest year-to-year drop, with 12 percent fewer third graders passing the Florida Standards Assessment.

The DOE also noted that charter school outperformed non-charter schools.

“Though the decline in grade 3 ELA performance at Level 3 and above between 2021 and 2022 was greater among charter schools than non-charter schools (2 percentage-point decline compared to a 1 percentage-point decline), charter school performance was higher than non-charter school performance by 7 percentage points on the 2022 Grade 3 FSA ELA (59% vs. 52%).”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.



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