Leon County’s School of Arts and Science had yet another all-star performance on the 8th grade Science FCAT this spring, ranking 7th in the state with a passing rate of 92%. The school has a single middle grades science teacher, Julie Sear, who teaches (and has a strong understanding of) all three science content areas – life science, Earth/space science, and physical science.
But as a whole, Leon County – one of the state’s most affluent school districts with a free and reduced lunch rate of only 36% (compared to the state rate of 58%) – had a passing rate of only 48%, right at the state average.
Leon County has an excuse, though. The district is unusually aggressive in having its stronger 8th graders take the high school Biology 1 course. This spring, 17% of the Biology end-of-course exams taken in Leon County were taken by 8th graders, compared to the state rate of only 3.3%. Because of the prohibition on “double testing” passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Scott last year, 8th graders who take the Biology EOC do not take the Science FCAT. That scoops Leon County’s strongest 8th graders – the top 17% – out of the Science FCAT pool.
Just to look at the math: 378 Leon County 8th graders took the Biology EOC. Let’s say all of these students had taken – and passed – the Science FCAT. These students would have been joining the 1,983 Leon students who actually who took the FCAT, and the 950 who passed. Then the district’s passing rate would have been 56%, which would have been more respectable.
Of course, Leon County’s policy of encouraging its stronger 8th graders to take the high school biology course also means that these students are not taking much, if any, physical science.
The School of Arts and Science does not offer the high school biology course. Julie Sear and her administration make sure that the school’s students have a well-rounded science education that meets all of Florida’s science standards – not just the standards in life science.
But that is a discussion for another day.