Definition differences cloud Florida's testing cut score debate
Florida Board of Education vice chairman John Padget cut to the chase Wednesday as he and colleagues discussed student test performance.
The state's eighth grade results on the newly released National Assessment for Educational Progress, or NAEP, were a "disaster," Padget said, noting it logged in at 45th of 50. The time has come to be more honest with students and parents about how they are performing, he contended, and he looked to Florida Standards Assessment cut scores as the place to start.
A Level 3 on the FSA should mirror proficiency on the NAEP, he argued. But under commissioner Pam Stewart's proposals, many more students would pass the FSA than demonstrate proficiency on the NAEP, Padget observed.
"We are not being honest when we create that disconnect," he said.
Commissioner Pam Stewart suggested that perhaps the problem lies in differences between Florida state law and other testing practices. Florida statute sets a Level 3 of five as "satisfactory" or "passing," she noted, while NAEP has four levels with the third being "proficient." The PARCC consortium, to which Florida once belonged, also views its Level 3 as approaching expectations, and Level 4 as meeting expectations.
And being satisfactory is not the same thing as being proficient, Stewart said. "Satisfactory" means acceptable but not outstanding, she said, while "proficiency" means having a high degree of skill or expertise. That would be closer to a Level 4 on the FSA, she argued.
"I firmly believe we should set the expectations where they ought to be," Stewart said, suggesting that lawmakers might need to change the rules regarding student performance levels to help keep the communication clear.
That lack of clarity frustrated board member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, who said people don't always mean the same thing as they discuss "passing" and "failing" state tests.
Board member Gary Chartrand asked the department to compare Florida's approach to cut scores and levels with other states' efforts, in time for an expected January vote.
"We've got to be well informed as a board to make the right decision," Chartrand said, calling setting cut scores the board's top priority.
Padget agreed the issue is critical.
"We've got to be honest with students and set the cut scores," he said. "We can worry about the adults later."