A Big Picture Look at the Decline in Florida’s 3rd Grade Reading Scores
By: Kyle Baltuch, SVP of Equality of Opportunity, Florida Chamber Foundation
Just last week, the Florida Department of Education released 3rd grade reading scores for the state of Florida. While a deep dive analysis is currently being run by the team at the Florida Chamber Foundation to better help understand which communities and schools are exceeding expectations and showing the potential for replicable promising practices, I wanted to provide you, our partners and stakeholders, with a high-level overview of the information we have gleaned so far.
For starters, Florida’s 3rd grade reading scores dropped by 1% compared to 2021, and currently, 53% of Florida’s 3rd graders are reading at grade level. While this drop should be of concern, it is important that we contextualize the factors at play and better unpack the scores at a state level.
Population of Test-Takers
The number of students assessed in 2022 increased by 6% over 2021 (210,287 vs. 198,628). While this increase is a sign of a growing population and students returning to the classroom post-COVID, it is worth noting that it remains lower than pre-pandemic figures.
One of the more interesting insights garnered so far comes in the area of racial achievement gaps. While there is still a severe gap in student performance when comparing White, Hispanic, and African American students, the number shrunk slightly in 2022. For reference, 37% of African American 3rd graders are currently reading at grade level (unchanged compared to 2021), while White and Hispanic 3rd graders are reading at grade level – 65% and 49% respectively; this is a 2% drop for both populations.
Additionally, English language learners actually increased their performance by 2% compared to 2021, and are now reading at grade level at a rate of 24%.
Lastly, 29% of students with disabilities are reading at grade level, which is unchanged from 2021.
Charter vs. Non-Charter Schools
When it comes to charter vs. non-charter schools, an achievement gap remains. As of 2022, 52% of non-charter school students are reading at grade level in 3rd grade, compared to 59% of charter school students. It is worth mentioning that this gap in performance has remained relatively consistent since assessments began in 2015.
School District Achievement
While Florida’s overall score dropped by 1%, some rural counties made impressive strides over the past year. In fact, the top 5 counties for improved scores were Franklin (+8%), Dixie (+7%), Taylor (+6%), Desoto (+5%), and Glades (+5%). This is encouraging news as rural counties have historically struggled when it comes to 3rd grade reading. Although, we must keep in mind that not all rural counties benefitted from strong gains, and in fact, the largest drop-off was realized in Lafayette (-12%).
As the Florida Business Alliance for Early Learning Project continues efforts on our lead Florida 2030 Blueprint goal to ensure 100% of 3rd graders are reading at grade level by 2030, we will be diving into these figures, discovering the programs and practices that are driving positive change at the community and school level, and working with the business community to spread these practices across the state. As we always say at the Florida Chamber Foundation, today’s learners are tomorrow’s earners and we must ensure that they are adequately prepared with all proper tools to enter the workforce. We need a united business community to make that happen.
I invite you to join us at the Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit on June 28 in Tampa, to be a part of very important conversations that not only focus on preparing our 3rd graders for 100% literacy, but ensuring all of Florida’s talent is headed in the right direction on the path to prosperity from cradle to career.
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If your business is focused on the future of Florida, and ensuring every Floridian has an equal opportunity at earned success, connect with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 850-521-1218.