Thursday, April 30, 2009

FCAT Writing Results are In

--School Stuff: We received our FCAT Writing Scores today. In Florida, students only have to take the writing portion of the FCAT exam in 4th, 8th, and 10th grades. Since this is my 1st year teaching 8th grade (instead of 6th or 7th) and since this is the 1st year the county combined language arts and reading into "one" class, I was very concerned about my students. The students who are in my classes ALL scored a Level 1 on the FCAT last year. (1 being the lowest possible score on the FCAT grading scale.) The state mandates that students who "fail" the FCAT be placed into an intensive reading course the following school year.

I love teaching reading! I love the reading curriculum. I love helping students connect to literature. I love helping "hook" reluctant readers. I am also very fond of the Read180 reading program our district paid literally millions of $$ to Sch.olastic to implement in our county. Last year, reading teachers taught reading using the Read180 program. It was wonderful! Both my current school and the school I transferred from were in the top 5 schools in the county for students who showed reading level gains at the end of the year. (This is a HUGE deal, as I live in a large county which has 30 middle schools in it!)

This year several middle schools opted to have the students' reading teacher also act as their language arts teacher. The idea was that since our reading classes always have a 2 period "block," and the Read180 program is designed for 90 minutes each day, we could use the last 30 minutes of the 2nd period each day to teach language arts. I admit that when my principal discussed the idea with me last summer I was all for it.

Then the reality of the school year set in. Trying to teach writing skills to ALL LEVEL ONE readers in only 30 minutes a day seemed impossible. Being done with Read180 in exactly 90 minutes a day was also nearly impossible. If I needed to "re-teach" or have class discussions on reading topics, we would go over the 90 minutes allotted for reading. Thus all year I've felt off balance....if I devoted the time I felt my students needed for language arts, I knew they weren't getting the time they needed for reading. If I allotted enough time for reading, then language arts was left rushed. Seriously, who can teach a worthy language arts lesson in less than half an hour? To all low level readers/writers. What an absurd concept!

Anyway...I wasn't expecting good results. I know that myself and my 2 co-teachers (one with each "block" of Read180 students) gave it our all. However, I truly wondered if it was enough. Were the needs of our students met?

I almost cried when we got our FCAT Writes results this morning. Cried from joy! On a scale of 1 to 6 (1=low and 6=high), Florida requires students to have a 3.5 or higher on the writing exam to constitute a passing score. 64% of my students scored a 3.5 or higher! And there were NO level 1s! I can't believe it! I am thrilled by this! 96% of these same students received a 1 when they last took the writing exam in 4th grade. ALL of the students began the year as level 1 readers. Yet somehow with only our measly 30 minutes....we taught them to write. Hallelujah!

My two moments that truly did cause me to "well up":
1. One of my lowest level readers, S.W. scored a 4.0. I am SOOO very ecstatic by this. This particular student has a really rough home life. He began the year reading only 60 words per minute. I am thrilled that he has shown such growth!

2. I have a student who scored a 5.5. WOWSERS! There were only 3 "6" scores and 11 "5.5" scores in my entire school. And one of my level one kiddos did it. I AM SO PROUD!

A pleasant surprise----my 2 most non-productive students, AA (mentioned in my "April Books" post) and RL, both of whom have had a D or F in all of their classes all school year due to lack of participation and/or work produced---both scored a 3.5. Wow. I certainly don't credit myself, but I was thrilled that they passed the exam!

So now the yin and the yang....the trying to nudge reading for writing and vice versa feel as though they were all worth it. Let's just hope our FCAT reading scores are also good when we receive them at the end of the school year. But for now-----yippee!


sklay723 said...

Awesome news!!!

Beautiful Mess said...

GREAT JOB, TEACHER! I'd be proud to have you as a teacher to Nae.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

Woo hoo! Fabulous news!

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

That's wonderful! I just might be asking for your advice as I 'homeschool' this summer. :)