Which Florida districts beat the odds in science achievement with economically challenged student populations? Calhoun, Citrus, Dixie, and Volusia stand out

When State Senator Bill Montford told me that he was just an old Calhoun County boy, I figured it was a typical (for Bill) self-deprecating remark.

I was wrong.  He was actually boasting.

The elementary and middle schools in the rural Panhandle county where Bill grew up are among Florida’s leaders in science achievement (as measured by the statewide science exams for 5th and 8th graders) with economically challenged student populations.

Bill uses his drawl to disguise his razor sharp intellect.  Judging from Calhoun County’s science FCAT scores, there are plenty of elementary and middle school students coming up there who will be able to pull the same trick.    Despite the fact that 69% of the district’s students are eligible for free and reduced price lunches (compared to Florida’s statewide rate of 58%), the district had a 57% passing rate for the 8th grade Science FCAT and a 63% passing rate for the 5th grade Science FCAT this spring.

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The figures above plot percentages passing (score of 3 or above) on the 8th and 5th grade Science FCAT exams against the percentages of each district’s students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches (FRL %).  At a free and reduced price lunch percentage of 69%, Calhoun’s passing rates stand out from those of its socioeconomic peer districts.

But for sheer standing out, no district can beat little Dixie County, where 99% of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches.  The district’s 5th grade science achievement (66% passing) and 8th grade result (48% passing – right near the state average) are remarkable for the circumstances.

Citrus County – the medium-sized district which has four elementary schools that each have a passing rate of 70% or better despite each having an FRL of 70% or greater – has an overall 5th grade Science FCAT passing rate of 62% despite its district-wide FRL of 66%.  Its 8th grade passing rate of 51%, while not as impressive as the 5th grade passing rate, is still above the state average.

Volusia County did particularly well on the 8th grade science test, earning a passing rate of 58% despite the district FRL of 64%.  The district’s 5th grade passing rate of 59% is not quite as distinguished as the 8th grade result, but it is still strong given the district’s socioeconomic challenges.

A full spreadsheet of results is linked below.

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This is yet another post that would not have happened without Connor Oswald’s skills.

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