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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Questions continue over Pasco's quarterly tests



Pasco County school district leaders looked to have a smoother second round of quarterly tests after the first effort drew criticism from both teachers and parents.

They said they had more teachers reviewing the tests, which the district calls "checks," to avoid problems such as typos, questions that don't align to standards and other things people found wrong earlier this year.

Imagine superintendent Kurt Browning's thoughts after reading a email from a Pine View Elementary teacher, who offered several examples from the latest test including misspelled words, questions on material not covered yet, and other troubles.

One question asked students to determine the greatest threat to Florida manatees, yet, the teacher noted, that topic hadn't been covered in class and the reading passage made no reference to it. Another asked fourth graders to do a multi-step math problem including a double-digit divisor, which is beyond fourth grade math standards, the teacher wrote.

"Aren't we just supposed to be assessing 2nd quarter skills that were taught?" teacher Sherri Sarabia wrote beneath the question, which she sent to Browning. "These are just examples of problems we are seeing and do not feel that these types of questions are a valid measure of what we have taught and this quarterly check will not provide useful or reliable information above and beyond what we already know about our students."

Browning forwarded the list to assistant superintendent for student achievement Vanessa Hilton, who oversaw the tests' development, with a brief query: "How does this happen??"

Hilton suggested some of the troubles lay at the feet of the school and teachers.

"Using the quarterly check blueprints, we noted that there may be some misconceptions about the relationship between the items and the content standards, in particular math and science," Hilton wrote to the superintendent. "In my response to the principal, I suggested that the math and science content specialists ... provide support to the 4th grade (professional learning community) to assist in clarifying their understanding of the standards and quarterly check blueprint."

She said that identified spelling errors were immediately fixed. She also wrote that a blurry map appeared legible on her computer, and the paper version was cleared up. "It is important to note that viewing or reading the map is not necessary to answer any questions," Hilton added.

Students continue to take the quarterly checks through this week.

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 2:30pm]


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