Florida Board of Education members send messages on test cut scores
Florida Board of Education members gave clear hints Friday on the direction they'll take when voting on Florida Standards Assessments cut scores in January, as commissioner Pam Stewart held firm in her recommendations.
Perhaps most telling were the comments of newly appointed member Tom Grady, a close ally of Gov. Rick Scott attending his first meeting after being named to the post.
Grady, a former lawmaker who has supported the state's education accountabilty model, said he had heard lots of talk about tying the FSA scores to NAEP scores, and he wasn't buying the connection.
"I haven't found a student who has taken it," Grady said, noting that only select students sit for NAEP every other year. "I don't view it as a gold standard. I view it as a standard. I'm not sure it should be the standard, or the pole star, for what we do."
He further observed that state statute sets forth clear direction that Level 3 on the FSA exams is considered "satisfactory" or "passing." That, he said, should end the conversation.
Board member Gary Chartrand said he was troubled by the seeming disconnect between the statutory requirements, and the apparent message that a Level 3 indicated proficiency or college readiness (particularly at the high school level).
"The worst thing we can do for our kids is to tell them they're proficient when they're not," Chartrand said, calling for more conversation on the topic.
Vice chairman John Padget was even more forceful in his view that the cut scores should connect directly to the NAEP proficiency levels.
Stewart stressed that it would be incumbent upon her and the department to clearly communicate the differences to the public.
"We would not be telling students that they are proficient," she advised the board. "We would be telling them they are satisfactory. That is what is in statute."
To drive home the point, Stewart noted that students have two years beyond their 10th-grade language arts exam to continue preparing for college, suggesting that passing the exam does not suggest college readiness.
Board members Rebecca Fishman-Lipsey and Michael Olenick said they were encouraged that the department had reached out to superintendents and school board members in this ongoing conversation, saying collaboration is key. The state superintendent and school board associations have backed Stewart's cut score proposals, a message that didn't go unnoticed by board chairwoman Marva Johnson.
"That, to me, is helpful to us," said Johnson, who reminded her colleagues that the actual cut score action item wasn't up for a vote.
It will come back to the board in January. Johnson said she expected a "thoughtful and considerate decision" when it arises.