Tuesday, May 22, 2012

FL: Half of high school students fail reading test

Nearly half of Florida high school students failed the reading portion of the state's new toughened standardized test, education officials said on Friday.

Results this year from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test showed 52 percent of freshman students and 50 percent of sophomores scored at their grade levels.

Students in the 10th grade must pass the exam in order to eventually graduate but can retake it if they fail.

The results came days after the Florida State Board of Education voted to lower the standards needed to pass the writing part of the test, known as FCAT. The test is administered in public elementary, middle and high schools.

The board took the action in an emergency meeting when preliminary results indicated only about one-third of Florida students would have passed this year.

"We are asking more from our students and teachers than we ever have, and I am proud of their hard work," Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said in a statement.

"As Florida transitions to higher standards and higher expectations, we can expect our assessment results to reflect those changes."


Britain's maths shame: Bright school children end up losing interest at secondary level

Tens of thousands of bright pupils are under-achieving in maths as schools settle for ‘mediocrity’ that meets exam targets, school inspectors warn today.

Able children’s results – even in dumbed-down GCSEs – are a national concern, says an Ofsted report.

Almost 90,000 pupils who achieved ‘level five’ grades in their SATs at 11 failed to secure an A or A* at GCSE five years later, the report reveals.  Schools are content with Bs and Cs for these pupils in line with national targets, it is claimed.

The report says: ‘A parent might legitimately ask, “How has my mathematically able child fallen back into mediocrity?”’

Secondary schools are judged by the Government on the proportion of youngsters gaining C grades or better in five GCSEs including maths and English.

They are also measured on the progress pupils make, with level five at 11 – one grade above the standard for the age group – expected to lead to grade B at GCSE.

Ofsted found that schools are increasingly putting pupils in for GCSE maths earlier than they need to in the hope of ‘banking’ a C grade so youngsters can concentrate on other subjects. This practice ‘hinders’ their ability to achieve top grades.
Concerned: Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the extensive use of early GCSE entry puts too much emphasis on attaining a grade C

Concerned: Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the extensive use of early GCSE entry puts too much emphasis on attaining a grade C

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: ‘The extensive use of early GCSE entry puts too much emphasis on attaining a grade C at the expense of adequate understanding and mastery of mathematics necessary to succeed at A-level and beyond.

‘Our failure to stretch some of our most able pupils threatens the future supply of well-qualified mathematicians, scientists and engineers.’

Ofsted’s report condemns ‘widespread use of early GCSE entry and repeated sitting of units’, which has encouraged ‘short-termism’ in teaching and ‘quick-fix’ booster classes to get pupils up to a C-grade level.

The watchdog declares it is a ‘grave concern that so many able pupils underachieve at GCSE’.

Following a survey of 160 primary and 160 secondary schools, it says that of 176,796 pupils who achieved level five in their maths SATs in 2006, about half – 89,125 – got no better than a B at GCSE in 2011. Some 37,600 achieved no better than a C.

‘This represents a waste of potential and should be a cause of national concern,’ the report says. ‘Too many schools were content with a grade B for their able pupils, speaking of them as “meeting their target” and “making expected progress.’

The report also concludes that GCSE maths is less demanding than it was just a few years ago, with pupils able to gain A grades despite having mastered barely any algebra.


Free childcare 'failing to have lasting impact on British pupils'

"Head Start" all over again

Billions of pounds worth of public money invested in pre-school education is failing to improve children’s grasp of the basics, according to MPs

A huge rise in cash for under-fives has led to “very little improvement” in standards in the first two years of full-time schooling, it was claimed.

In a report, the cross-party Commons public accounts committee said that access to a high quality early years education was supposed to have a “lasting positive impact” on standards.

But MPs found “no clear evidence” of a knock-on effect on pupils at the age of seven, raising concerns that up to £1.9bn a year is being misspent.

Access to state-funded childcare was introduced under Labour in the late 90s and expanded by the Coalition. Currently, all three and four-year-olds receive 15 hours of free education each week.

But the report found that large numbers of parents were being forced to pay “top-up” fees – often equal to hundreds of pounds a month – because nurseries refused to accept the cap on state funding.

The disclosure comes just 24 hours after a study found that childcare in Britain was among the most expensive in the developed world, with typical families spending more than a quarter of household income on nursery fees.

Margaret Hodge, the committee’s Labour chairman, said: “High-quality early years education can have lasting benefits for children and results at age five have improved.

“But the Department for Education needs to get to grips with why there is little improvement at the age of seven and what happens between the ages of five and seven to lessen the effect.”

She added: “It is unacceptable for any parent to be charged for what should be a free entitlement. It is also completely unacceptable that some parents cannot access the free education unless they agree to pay ‘top-up’ fees for more hours. The Department must take action to prevent this.”

Labour first introduced free entitlement to nursery in the late 90s and the policy has been gradually expanded over the last 13 years.

In 2010, the Coalition announced that all three and four-year-olds would be able to claim 15 hours of childcare a week over a “flexible” 38-week period – at a cost of £1.9bn in 2011/12.

But the study said that there was “no clear evidence” that the “entitlement is having the long-term educational benefits for children” that was intended

Assessments carried out last summer showed some 15 per cent of seven-year-olds – 80,000 – were unable to read after two full years of primary school. Data also showed that one-in-five infants were failing to write to the expected standard and a further 10 per cent are struggling with basic numeracy.

In a further conclusion, the report said that poor families had the “lowest levels of take-up and deprived areas have the lowest levels of high quality services”.

It also emerged that some nurseries were refusing to give parents “the free entitlement without a payment of top-up fees”.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We’ve seen big year-on year improvements in children’s development at five as a result of free early education – but we know there are many factors that influence attainment at school.

“We are commissioning a major piece of longitudinal research to look at how early education impacts on later attainment and to understand more about how a high quality early education leads to better results at seven and beyond. “


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