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More Than 70 Duval Elementary Schools Are Below State’s Average 3rd Grade Reading Level

woman shushing a classroom of students sitting on the floor as she reads a book to them in what appears to be a library.
Ross D. Franklin
Associated Press
Some elementary schools in Duval County have Third Grading Reading Scores in the teens, on a scale from 1-100, with 100 meaning all 3rd graders are able to read at or above their grade level.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled an online dashboard Thursday that compares elementary school students’ reading levels across the state. 

The tool specifically looks at third graders’ reading levels, and comes up with a score 

The chamber’s CEO Mark Wilson announced the tool, saying that according to the latest state data collected from the Florida Department of Education, only 58% of third graders in Florida are able to read at or above their grade level. 

He said the goal from the chamber is that by 2030, 100% of third graders will be able to read at their grade level. 

“It's not the kids fault if we don't have 100% of kids reading at grade level,” Wilson said. “It's all of our responsibility to find out what's going in the classrooms and what's going on in the community.”

The Florida Gap Map breaks down every county by ZIP code, and highlights each elementary school, giving them a “Third Grade Reading Score”. If the score is a 55, for example, then that means that 55% of students at the school read at or above their grade level.

“My hope is that we'll start calling them the 34% school, or the 88% school, as a reflection of how many kids in that school can actually read at grade level,” Wilson said. 

The map also gives the percentage and exact number of children living in poverty in each ZIP code. 

In Duval County, there are more than 60 elementary schools listed that have Third Grade Reading Scores lower than 50, meaning that less than half of the students in the school are  reading at their grade level. 

map of Duval County zip codes, with elementary schools sprinkled throughout the map
Credit Via Florida Chamber of Commerce
The Florida Gap Map for Duval County, which shows the concentrated areas of poverty in the area, along with elementary school reading levels.

Over 70 of the elementary schools in the county are below the state average of 58%.  

In Duval, the score goes as low as the teens for some schools. 

The poverty rate among children is higher closer to Jacksonville’s center. In the 32209 ZIP code, which includes Moncrief Park, Magnolia Gardens, and Hogans Creek, there are 6,073 children living in poverty, which accounts for 62.4% of the children’s population. 

Other ZIP Codes with high poverty rates include:

  • 32204 (LaVilla, Brooklyn, and Five Points) - 54.3% 
  • 32206 (Urban Core, Eastside, Talleyrand) - 47.8%
  • 32208 (Tallulah, Riverview, Sherwood Forest) - 44.9%
  • 32254 (West Jacksonville, Edgewood, Biltmore) - 43.7% 
  • 32216 (Holiday Hill, Grove Park, Sans Souci) - 36.4%

Overall, of the 32 ZIP codes listed on the map, 13 of them have childhood poverty levels above 20%. 
“Do you know how many kids are living in poverty in the zip code where you live?” Wilson questioned. “Do you know how many kids are living in poverty and the zip code where you work? Well now you can know.” 

Through these tools, Wilson said he hopes businesses throughout the state will pour money and other resources into schools that are surrounded by higher levels of poverty, or have a low Third Grade Reading Score.

“This isn't about blaming anybody. If anybody should be blamed, it's the business community,” Wilson said. “We now finally have the data, we now finally have no excuse to step up, lean in, help the children's movement, and help each school and help each teacher accomplish these objectives.” 

Wilson said the map will give businesses in local commerce chambers a strategic blueprint to pinpoint which areas they should focus on helping out.

“When I grew up, small businesses used to sponsor our baseball team, and their name was on the back of the jersey,” Wilson said. “What would happen if local businesses sponsored a classroom?”

Jerry Parrish, the chief economist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said there was a reason he wanted to focus on third grade reading levels.

“That's when kids are going from learning to read to reading to learn,” Parrish said. “So as they're making that transition, we need to make sure that they're ready.”

Parrish said data on the map is from 2018, and it will be updated with data from 2019 as soon as they receive it this December. 

According to Wilson, if Florida were to be its own individual country, it would have the 17th largest economy in the world. By 2030, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has a goal to make the state the 10th largest economy, with expected growth of 4.5 million new residents and 1.5 million additional jobs. 

“The only way we can grow the economy to the 10th largest in the world if we were a country is to do the right things,” Wilson said.

Sky Lebron can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.