The Phoenix Flyer

Troubling results for FL kids taking state science exams; many students flunk

By: - July 9, 2019 1:11 pm

Teacher with students in elementary school science class. Credit: Getty Images

With so much emphasis on state exams in math and reading, science may be overlooked.

But it shouldn’t be: Under federal education law, states must administer a science exam at least once in specific grade spans, such as Grades 3 through 5.

For elementary students, the science test is given to 5th graders, and the exam includes topics such as the nature of science, earth and space science, physical science and life science. Almost 219,000 5th graders took the exam in 2019.

Statewide, 53 percent of 5th graders passed the exam, down from 55 percent the year before, according to Florida Department of Education data.

But the 55 percent passing rate last year was the highest since 2012. In other years since 2012, the passing rates ranged from 51 to 54 percent.

Still, that means almost half the 5th graders taking the exams across Florida have been flunking.

And what families and taxpayers need to know is that “passing” the science exam doesn’t necessarily mean kids are proficient in science.

Florida allows students to pass the exam with an achievement level of at least 3, meaning: “satisfactory –may need additional support for the next grade/course.”

Students are considered proficient in science if they score at least a Level 4, or, the highest category of Level 5, which means mastery of the subject.

Only 25 percent of 5th graders scored in the achievement levels of 4 and 5, on the 2019 exams.

For 8th graders taking the state science exam, only 48 percent of kids  passed with at least a 3 achievement level.

Only 25 percent were considered proficient or higher, posting achievement levels of 4 and 5.

Students usually in 9th through 12th grades take an end-of-course exam in Biology 1, although some kids take the biology exam in 7th and 8th grades.

For the spring 2019 Biology 1 exam, 67 percent of students passed.




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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.