Third-graders struggle with Florida’s statewide reading exam at every school. But at two Palm Beach County charter schools, the entire grade did.
At both Learning Path Academy in West Palm Beach and Belle Glade Excel Charter School, not a single third-grader managed to pass the reading portion of the Florida Standards Assessment this year, according to test results released last week.
Both schools are small and educate large numbers of students from poor families, many of them with learning disabilities or language barriers.
But the fact that neither school could get a single third-grader to score at grade level stunned the director of the school district’s charter school department.
“Honestly I’ve never seen that before,” said Jim Pegg, who oversees the county’s charter schools for the school district. “I’ve never seen it where no one passed. I would say that’s not good at all. I am concerned about those schools.”
Third-grade reading scores are particularly important because students who do poorly on the test are at risk of being required to repeat the grade.
Students receive a numerical grade of 1 through 5 on the test. Those who score a 3 or above are considered to have passed, while those who score a 1 or 2 are considered to read below grade level.
Students who get a 1 are at risk of being forced to repeat the grade.
At Learning Path, all 25 third-graders who took the test failed to pass, and 22 of them earned a 1, meaning they may have to repeat the grade.
At Belle Glade Excel, all 15 third-grades failed to pass, with 9 earning a 1.
Isis Rosso, a co-principal at Learning Path, acknowledged that the school’s third-graders had not performed well. But she said that many of their students have learning disabilities or language barriers, making the test especially difficult for them.
“It’s really not reflective of what our students’ abilities are,” she said. “One of the things that we’ve been trying to work on is help the community understand the specific population that we serve.”
Pegg, though, said that while students with learning disabilities and language barriers may receive special accommodations during the test, schools are still expected to teach them well enough to read at grade level.
“Regardless of whether a kid has a (disability), students are expected to perform,” he said. “There are accommodations and strategies that should be applied to the teaching and learning.”
School district officials will be meeting with both schools soon to discuss their performance, he said.
Charter schools are publicly funded by operated by private non-profits. But county school districts are required to monitor their performance.
“They have to develop a very specific plan for how they’re going to address their reading deficiencies,” he said.