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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida Department of Education targets FCAT cheating with new rules



When we reported earlier this week on Florida's new FCAT honesty pledge for students, some readers told us that the oath was just the one of several guidelines the state is putting in place as a way to deal with cheating.

We've now got that complete list (attached below), so it's time for an update. Some of the rules are older but being emphasized and revised, while others are new. Spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said the department is taking these steps as a way to prevent cheating or test irregularities, and also to have a clear record of who did what in case investigations become necessary.

The highlights:

  • Beginning with the Spring 2012 FCAT Writing administration, all test administrators must be certified educators. Non-certified school personnel may serve as proctors.
  • Beginning with the Fall 2011 administration, all test administrators are required to maintain a seating chart for each test administration. These charts must include such details as the names of all students in the room, their exact location and the direction they are facing during the test. 
  • Beginning with the Fall 2011 administration, students taking a paper-based test are required to read and sign a student pledge that reads, “I agree that I will not give or receive unauthorized help during this test. I understand that giving or receiving such help during the test is cheating and will result in the invalidation of my test results.” Students taking a computer-based test must read and check a box indicating that they agree to adhere to this pledge.
  • If a student is found with any electronic devices during testing including, but not limited to, cell phones and smart phones, his or her test is invalidated. This isn't new, but the wording now specifies cell phones and smart phones are included.

As we've noted in the past, FCAT cheating has happened -- kids with phones, teachers giving hints, strange erasure patterns and such -- but the incidents have been few. Department officials say they're just trying to make clear how important the exam is, and to have procedures in place in case worse comes to worst.

The DOE also is trying to make sure the rules meet the state's testing security statute. Some superintendents have questioned the logistics and costs of some of these measures. But for now, at least, the state isn't budging, as the FCAT nears.

[Last modified: Friday, April 6, 2012 10:17am]


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