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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Can Florida school students get right answers on the FCAT and still be wrong?



huh.jpegAs long as the FCAT has existed, we've heard talk of questions that confuse rather than prove a student's true knowledge.

Third-grade teachers, for instance, have noted that sometimes the illustrations that accompany short reading passages don't show what the words say. Yet teachers often instruct students to use clues such as pictures to help them determine meaning. The clue, then, might mislead a child into answering incorrectly.

Robert Krampf, the Happy Scientist from northern Florida, told the Gradebook that he sees evidence of errors throughout the sample test material that the Florida Department of Education provides on its website. He offered several examples. Here's one.

earth_and_moon.jpegIn a fifth-grade sample science test, one question asks: "Earth appears to be the only planet that can support life as we know it. Which of the following gives Earth the conditions needed to support life?" The choices are: f) the shape of the orbit, g) the closeness of Mars, h) the presence of a moon, i) the distance from the sun.

The correct answer from the answer guide is I. Schrampf begs to differ.

"Actually, answers f, h and i all play a role in giving Earth the conditions needed to support life," he wrote in an e-mail to the Gradebook. "A quick Google search of 'what if the Earth had no moon' will show plenty of articles like this one."

His point is that a thoughtful student could be correct but marked wrong on a test like the FCAT. If just 10 percent of questions have misleading or confusing answers, he suggested, scores could be negatively impacted for many children. "If errors like this are in the examples that were picked for the FLDOE website, who knows what errors might be in the actual test," he wrote. "And since we are not allowed to see the actual tests, there is no way to fact check them."

(Photos from

[Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 12:49pm]


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