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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas superintendent asks for review of FCAT writing scores



Concerns about poor FCAT writing results have not died down despite the Florida Department of Education's decision not to take a closer look into the matter.

Pinellas County superintendent Mike Grego, a one-time state K-12 chancellor, sent a letter to state education commissioner Pam Stewart earlier this month, urging an investigation into the results based on his staff's findings of irregularities. On his list:

- In 2014, 91 percent of Pinellas A-rated elementary schools had double digit drops in their writing scores

- Some elementary schools made significant gains in third grade reading and math scores, but had a double digit drop in writing where a strong writing program was in place.

- In 2014, 13 of the county's traditional 16 high schools showed decreases in the percentage of students scoring 3.5 and above, compared to 15 of 16 high schools showing increases a year earlier.

"Because we recognize that you, too, value the hard work of both teachers and students, we are confident you will take action and examine these issues not only for Pinellas, but for all students with assessments that do not appear to measure what they are designed to measure," Grego wrote.

Grego has not yet received a response.

Other district leaders are watching the issue carefully. Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning, whose staff first publicized the concerns, said he is waiting for students' FCAT responses to arrive at schools, where teachers will compare the answers to state grading criteria and past student work. He was hopeful that such an analysis would help better understand whether the issue lay with the schools or the state.

Browning has received support for his questions from other superintendents, as well. Monroe superintendent Mark Porter, for instance, e-mailed Browning to express interest in joining any challenge, noting that his district's scores defied expectations, too.

"Our FCAT Writing Grade 4 proficiency dropped even more than yours (-17%) to 33%," Porter wrote. "What is also somewhat similar is the disproportionately large number of students scoring at the 3.0 level (Pasco = 30%, Monroe = 41%). As one further example of my concern, one of our traditionally highest performers in Grade 4 writing (to whom we look for best practices) dropped in proficiency to 48% with a remarkable 47% scoring at 3.0."

Department spokesman Joe Follick said he would look into whether the DOE has changed its stance on the writing test in light of Grego's specific call for an inquiry. Stay tuned.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 11:07am]


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