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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

FCAT cut scores debate continues

5

December

The Florida Board of Education ended its special workshop on FCAT cut scores Monday with more questions to answer before members must decide how high (or low) to set passing scores for the annual test. The debate has centered on high school scores, which have been recommended for lowering.

The current scores have been in place for a decade, and board chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan noted that several factors are in play, each of which carries its own weight. Though board members took no action, their comments revealed differences of opinion as to exactly where they might go.

Shanahan and Sally Bradshaw made clear their disdain for proposals to lower the passing score for high school students, as many superintendents have recommended. District officials, many of whom spoke to the board, said the existing scores were too low at the elementary and middle levels, but by the time kids take FCAT in high school, the passing level is too high, making it look as if truly successful students are failing.

Bay superintendent Bill Husfelt likened the suggested change to righting a wrong -- a semantic difference, he noted, from Shanahan's contention that it would be lowering the bar.

Other board members, such as Gary Chartrand and Roberto Martinez, said they stand for rigor in Florida's testing system. 

"But I want to make sure we don't decimate kids who have a chance for a good future by setting the cut scores too high," Chartrand said, asking for data on how FCAT failure links to dropouts.

Martinez asked for a copy of the FCAT 10th grade exam so he can see exactly how hard it is before he votes on changes.

Shanahan and board member John Padget expressed a keen interest in the concept of "delinking" FCAT scores related to college and graduation readiness. Perhaps the score a student needs to successfully complete high school need not be the same as the one demonstrating college preparedness, they said.

"I'd like to see what we can do with that," Padget said.

The FLDOE staff said it would prepare all the requested information for the board so it can be ready for its conference call in two weeks, when it is scheduled to make a decision on the cut scores. The board has been debating the issue for several weeks. It held its meeting today after getting added input from college leaders who were asked to review the proposals (information here).

[Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2011 1:09pm]

    

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