On FCAT, keep erasures to a minimum, Florida education officials warn
Hoping to further deter cheating, the Florida Department of Education last week held a conference with district testing coordinators to review the state's latest methods for reviewing FCAT answer sheets.
One of the big three red flags will remain erasures. Caveon Test Security, which the state has hired for this work, also will be looking at patterns of school gains and similarity of student answers.
It's the attention to erased answers that raised the biggest concerns among some district leaders. After all, the FCAT directions tell students to review their work and erase wrong responses if they find them.
The state isn't telling students not to erase, said Sharon Koon, assistant deputy commissioner for accountability, research and measurement.
Rather, it's telling districts to stop teaching students to mark a "placeholder" answer for questions they don't know, and then come back to correct those if there's time, Koon told the Gradebook.
"There should never be a strategy to put marks on the test that do not belong," she said. "If they don't erase well, potentially they will get the answer wrong anyway."
Koon suggested alternate strategies such as writing down the numbers of the questions that a student skips, or folding the test by the questions, and then returning to those later.
In 2010-11, erasure reviews led to the discovery of 21 suspected incidents of FCAT cheating in 14 counties, including Hillsborough. The department is still reviewing the districts' investigation reports, Koon said, and has not yet issued its final findings.