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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida Board of Education reduces FCAT writing passing score

Amid suggestions that Florida schools did not receive adequate information about changing scoring standards for the FCAT writing, the Florida Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously reduced its passing score on the test from 4.0 to 3.0 for purposes of assigning school grades.

Board vice chairman Roberto Martinez proposed the move in an e-mail (attached below), saying that the change would in effect hold schools harmless from the state's grading change. At 4.0, fewer than one-third of students scored at proficiency levels. At 3.0, that result rises to closer to 80 percent.

Board members stressed that they continue to support increased "rigor" in the state's expectations of students. The reduction of the passing score looks like backing off, member John Padget of Monroe County said. "I for one am against that. I am voting for this as a hold harmless for one year only."

But sometimes the state needs to take a step back and reassess in light of "unintended consequences," board member Sally Bradshaw said.

"It is very important that our kids are achieving, and assessment is a part of that," Bradshaw said. "We need to look at the information and make sure we're making the right decisions in the right way."

Commissioner Gerard Robinson stressed that the state was not simply sweeping a problem under the rug. "We are not changing the direction because we don't like the results that we have," he said. Rather, it is in response to changes that seem to not have been appropriately communicated.

During more than an hour of public input, parents and teachers criticized the amount of testing that occurs in Florida. "This is one indication where teaching to the test has become a problem," Miami-Dade parent Donna March said. "It is doing harm to my kids."

They also made clear that they did not have enough information to understand the changes put into effect for the FCAT writing this year. "We were a little out of touch, obviously, with what the expectations were," writing teacher Holly Wallace told the board.

The Florida Department of Education plans to release the full FCAT writing results by the end of the week, if possible. Robinson said the department intends to improve its level of teacher training on writing expectations and standards. In response to a teacher's comments, he said the department also is considering giving students more time to take the test in order to meet the higher expectations.

Keep up with the developing story here

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 2:25pm]


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