FCAT hearings still on horizon
State Sen. Don Gaetz (left), who chairs the Senate education committee, told Education Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg this week that his committee still intends to hold hearings on the botched 2006 FCAT and the bigger questions it raises about Florida's accountability system. The hearings are needed, he said in an Aug. 29 letter, so the committee can "consider whether legislation may be necessary in order to protect the integrity of the FCAT and preserve and strengthen the state's educational accountability system."
Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, first raised the idea of hearings in May, immediately after DOE officials disclosed that scores on 200,000 third-grade reading tests may have been artificially inflated. He told The Gradebook yesterday that he expects the hearings will take place before the Legislature convenes for its regular session in March. He said he expects DOE officials to testify, including Blomberg, and said he's likely to ask former Commissioner John Winn to appear as well.
On a related issue, Gaetz said he's still reserving judgment on DOE's response. Blomberg quickly formed a high-profile task force, including superintendents and district testing experts, to look into the 2006 test results. And earlier this month, the task force recommended DOE hire the Buros Institute at the University of Nebraska to review DOE conclusions about what went wrong in 2006 and improve the state's scoring system. But Gaetz said he's pressing DOE to make its review is as broad as possible, so public confidence can be restored. "I believe the credibility of the FCAT is in question and the credibility of academic accountability," he said.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter