Did Florida misstep in lowering the FCAT writing pass score?
Florida education leaders have come under heavy scrutiny for what appeared a knee-jerk reaction to reduce the passing score for FCAT writing after it became clear that tougher standards would mean a lower success rate.
NY Times columnist Michael Winerip chided the decision this weekend as a "Presto! Problem solved" move. Even children in the Pasco school system ripped the switcheroo with the insight that "if a kid needs help, they need help."
Now Texas educators find themselves in a similar spot. The state reduced its cut scores in advance of rolling out new, tougher tests, the Houston Chronicle reports, so that students could answer fewer than half the questions on some correctly and still pass. Several people, including parents and district officials, are complaining that that act simply gives a false sense of reality.
"If they're unacceptable, they're unacceptable," Houston ISD superintendent Terry Grier said to the Chronicle of the test results. "We need to accept the fact that they are what they are and get very busy trying to improve them."
The scenario raises some key questions that it seems the public and policy makers in both Florida and Texas need to come to grips with. First and foremost, what's more important -- giving out good grades or earning a passing score? Looks like both states are succumbing to the pressure of looking and feeling good, rather than as Grier suggests just letting the chips fall where they may and moving on.
But second, and related, is the question of how quickly new standards and passing scores can and should be put in place, and how much responsibility the states must have to back its changing standards with resources to help teachers teach them.