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Sarasota County School Board is looking for substitute teachers.

SARASOTA — When it comes to test results, the Sarasota County School Board wants to see “more green and less red” in the data.

Board members discussed progress monitoring data that revealed some alarming statistics at a workshop on Tuesday.

The midyear 2020-2021 data and implementation review showed that more students are struggling than this time last year.

Diagnostic results from fall and winter were compared. The data showed that 50% of students are at least one grade level behind in elementary school math, and 39% are at least one grade behind in elementary school reading.

Statistics from the middle schools showed that 57% of students are at least one grade level behind in math, and 44% are at least one grade level behind in reading.

Students were tested in September and then right before winter break to test their growth.

“One thing I want to point out is that I don’t think it’s a good idea to compare this year to last year, because our timeframe this year between test one and test two was three to six weeks shorter than normal,” said Superintendent Brennan Asplen. “This is not to be defensive, it’s just a fact. A good month of instruction did not occur, compared to last year. If the tests were given at the same time as last year, the numbers would probably be higher.”

Chair Shirley Brown agreed.

“I was shocked when I saw the numbers,” she said. “How could half of our students be behind? We need to see more students in the green (mid or above grade level) and less in the red.”

Board member Bridget Ziegler expressed concern about the assessment results as well.

“We need to make sure we are providing the right resources to our staff, and have a timeline and evaluate it as much as possible.”

So what is being done to change the numbers?

• Curriculum specialists are meeting with principals throughout the district to discuss and share best practices.

• Personalized data review/strategic support and action planning sessions are currently in progress.

• Daily lesson support is available to teachers via the Blackboard Preview Course.

This information was shared in a presentation by Sue Meckler, director of curriculum, at the workshop.

“We think these efforts will directly impact the next test results,” Meckler said.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order on Monday that expands the window for state testing and affirmed it will indeed take place.

The Sarasota School Board is one of many groups asking that the state hold districts harmless for the test results due to the challenges of innovative teaching as a result of the pandemic. The testing can determine whether students are held back, how much of a raise a teacher could get and what grade districts receive.

As part of its 2021 legislative agenda, the Board is calling on lawmakers to suspend the negative consequences that lower test scores could trigger.

State officials canceled testing last year due to COVID-19, as Florida schools went entirely remote in March. Since in-school learning resumed in the fall, thousands of students and hundreds of teachers have been required to quarantine for up to two weeks after being exposed to the virus, radically altering daily school routine.


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