Five Florida school districts question FCAT results, want delay in school grades
UPDATE at 5:55 p.m.: A response from Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith is included at the end of this post.
This year's FCAT results have "significant anomalies" and should be thoroughly and immediately reviewed, according to a letter sent to Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith today by the superintendents of the Hillsborough, Duval, Broward, Miami-Dade and Leon school districts.
The letter points to "substantial decreases in learning gains components," particularly in elementary school reading results, particularly with the lowest-performing 25 percent of students, and particularly in higher-performing elementary schools.
"The severity of the decreases cannot be explained by normal year-to-year fluctuations," the letter says.
The five superintendents say the release of school grades this year - already postponed because of problems with testing contractor Pearson - should be delayed "until an expert study can be conducted and resolution is brought to all data concerns."
“Let me state first and foremost that I have the utmost confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the 2010 FCAT results. Multiple reviews by an independent testing expert, The Buros Institute, in addition to our own internal verification procedures, have all confirmed this fact. Taking into account my high level of confidence in the scoring process and the results, in addition to the fact that the lowest performing quartile of students are not scored separately from other students, it is my belief that the data these districts are highlighting is accurate. Our districts have done a tremendous job over the years in increasing the overall level of achievement in the lowest performing quartile of students and as expected, as that achievement rises, it becomes more difficult to reproduce that success year after year. This is the hurdle we are now facing and I am grateful that our school districts are concentrating their efforts and analysis on this extremely important group of students. With that said, I take the concerns from our school districts very seriously and as such I have sought out an additional independent third party reviewer to evaluate the statistical viability of this year’s results focusing specifically on this group of students. HumRRO (Human Resource Research Organization) has agreed to conduct this audit and we will publish the results as soon as they are available.”