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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Lower FCAT scores don't necessarily mean less learning, superintendent says



Students across Florida are preparing to take the FCAT in a couple of weeks.

They're the same students taking the same classes with the same teachers they have been in all year (or all semester). Their FCAT results are likely to be lower, though, than if they had done the same thing a year ago.

The main reason: A new scoring matrix adopted by the State Board of Education to go into effect immediately. Superintendents are reminding parents (and other residents who look at the annual results) that this is happening, and urging them not to overreact. Monroe superintendent Jesus Jara wrote a column for the Keynoter that makes the point quite plainly.

Sure, he notes, school grades will drop. School districts will spend more time and resources on remedial work. Elective courses might go by the wayside as more students must enter those remedial courses. Most important to remember, though:

"Lower FCAT test scores do not necessarily indicate that a student learned less this year than in prior years. It does indicate the student has more work to do to master the new curriculum well enough to successfully progress to the new higher levels of accountability as required by the state."

Is cheating far behind? For a little more perspective, also read the letter that FairTest's Bob Schaeffer wrote to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his thoughts on testing and cheating.

"More policing and better after-the-fact investigations will not ... solve the many problems caused by the misuse of standardized exam scores. Instead, high-stakes testing requirements must end. They cheat students out of a high-quality education and cheat the public out of accurate information about school quality."

Florida districts generally didn't get flagged in the AJC's recent look at school cheating. As the state makes the stakes even higher, though, the temptation might rise, too. Keep an eye on it. 

[Last modified: Monday, April 2, 2012 6:37am]


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