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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

FCAT cut scores: Is 245 for 10th-grade reading justified?



Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson put the 10th grade FCAT reading cut score in play in October. He held a cryptic conference call with reporters, where he said "careful deliberation" was required before he could recommend the score that educators had spent almost a year researching.

After another "reactor panel" that largely backed the score of 243, and a State Board of Education workshop where members were mixed in their views, Robinson came back with a recommendation of 245. He said the higher score would help create a "new standard for a new era" in Florida education.

The questions came quickly. How did he justify the two-point increase? Was it based on testing science? Or was it pulled from thin air to mollify politicians who were clamoring for increased rigor? It matters, many educators said, because each point increase represented about 7,500 students who would not be able to graduate, so the state has to get it right.

More than a week after making his proposal, which goes to the board at 8 a.m. today, Robinson gave a few more specifics on his view through a department spokeswoman. Interim communication director Cheryl Etters pointed the Gradebook to pages 43-47 of the department's workshop Power Point on FCAT scores, and said the answer lay there.

Specifically, she noted that a concordance study of FCAT 2.0 to twelfth-grade SAT scores in Hillsborough County showed that a passing SAT score of 440 — which allows a student to qualify for college without remediation — was equivalent to an FCAT 2.0 reading score of 244-246 in Hillsborough. The state PSAT concordant score of 40 for tenth-graders was 243.

Etters then directed us to the page that showed two of eight members of the state's second reactor panel, which included primarily college leaders who receive the high school graduates, supported the score of 245. Five backed 243. (Note, only one of 20 members of the first panel supported a score above 245, while 18 backed 243.)

"He did say the second reactor panel put a light on it," Etters said. "Getting a score to get kids to be ready to go to college, you have to go with the higher score."

Robinson's proposal, which generally supports the reactor panel recommendations, otherwise has garnered backing despite higher scores in other grade levels. Many superintendents have said those are justified. But as for the high school scores, the debate continues. Stay tuned to see where the State Board comes down.

[Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011 6:25am]


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