Florida’s third graders show in-person instruction led to better learning outcomes

Posted 6/24/21

On June 22, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) announced the initial English Language Arts (ELA) results of the Grade 3 Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).

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Florida’s third graders show in-person instruction led to better learning outcomes


TALLAHASSEE — On June 22, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) announced the initial English Language Arts (ELA) results of the Grade 3 Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Findings from the initial results include that districts with higher rates of in-person instruction had more consistent learning outcomes between 2019 and 2021 (state tests were not administered in Spring 2020). Achievement gaps also narrowed for Florida’s African American and Hispanic students, who experienced less of a decline (3 percent) than White students (4 percent). The results illustrate that Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran exhibited remarkable leadership while continuing to make the right decisions when fighting to provide parents with the choice to send their children to in-person learning.

“On June 11, 2020, Commissioner Corcoran and I stood with our school district superintendents and said our schools will be open,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Throughout the year we continued to work with districts to get struggling students on campus full-time to stop learning loss and the possibility of widening achievement gaps. With overwhelming data to support our decisions, we stood firm for our students, families and their teachers. We can now say without hesitation that this generation of Florida’s K-12 students are positioned for success better than any other state in the nation.”

“With 68 percent of students on campuses full-time and 80 percent on campus full- or part-time, I am grateful to report that 97 percent of Grade 3 students tested in-person in Spring 2021,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Moreover, preliminary results show that between 92 to 94 percent of students took Florida’s state tests (ELA Writing, ELA Reading, Mathematics and end-of-course exams). I am so grateful for the support of Governor DeSantis and district superintendents like Pinellas County’s Mike Grego in crafting the supports and flexibilities needed to ensure Florida could lead the nation in in-person instruction and ensuring that we assess the progress of so many of our students. Getting our students on campus and ultimately informing those students, their parents and their teachers about their academic progress put Florida families and teachers in the driver’s seat to make decisions in the best interest of their children’s growth.”

Throughout the year, Florida leaders, parents and school districts had access to state-of-the-art progress monitoring systems to provide almost real-time feedback. This allowed them to identify student deficiencies in learning and focus targeted resources and supports to improve student achievement. For example, progress monitoring suggests that Florida students are performing at a higher level than their national counterparts on i-Ready reading. The initial results suggest that progress monitoring data has been highly accurate by substantially predicting student assessment scores prior to testing.

Florida’s advancements with progress monitoring this school year are seen as a potential game-changer in the future that will allow districts to access valid and reliable data to predict student achievement and academic progress.

• While the statewide percentage of Grade 3 students scoring Level 3 or above on the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) English Language Arts (ELA) assessment saw a slight decrease, the data clearly shows that, on average, districts with higher rates of in-person instruction weathered the “COVID slide” better and saw lesser declines between 2019 and 2021 than districts with higher rates of virtual instruction.

• Overall, in 2021 performance at Level 3 and above (on grade level and above) decreased by 4 percentage points compared to 2019 (58% to 54%).

• All student subgroups continue to have a higher percentage of students performing at Level 3 and above than in 2015 when the FSA was first administered.

• Charter school performance was higher than non-charter school performance by 8 percentage points on the 2021 Grade 3 FSA ELA (61% vs. 53% at Level 3 or above, respectively). Additionally, charter school performance has been consistently higher than non-charter school performance since 2015 when the test was first administered.

These results are the first glimpse of valuable information that will help policymakers understand the reading achievements and deficiencies of Florida’s Grade 3 students. The picture of where Florida students academically stand will become clearer as additional assessment results become available this summer. The entirety of student assessment results will assist FDOE and districts identify individual student deficiencies for districts to begin providing targeted interventions and supports to students moving forward. The remaining statewide assessment results will be available no later than July 31, per Florida Department of Education Emergency Order No. 2021-01.

FDOE, third grade, FSA