TAMPA — Students watching this year's flap over potentially unreliable FCAT scores might be forgiven for hoping the state-mandated test would go away.
But on Tuesday, the Hillsborough County School Board made a move in the opposite direction: Get ready for another test, too.
By a unanimous vote, the board agreed to a one-year, $100,000 extension of its contract with a testing contractor to possibly offer the Stanford 10 test in Grades 1 through 10. Adding it to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test could give the district more confidence during a period of uncertainty about test scores, officials said.
It was only this summer that superintendent MaryEllen Elia and other district leaders made headlines by challenging the validity of some elementary FCAT scores.
The state Department of Education is working to address such concerns, Elia said, but next year will also launch a new generation of the FCAT with tougher standards and end-of-course exams. Adding the Stanford will provide an independent measure.
"This will allow us to make those important comparisons," Elia said. "We think it's important to leave our options open."
All Florida students took a version of the Stanford until 2008, when legislators dropped the requirement. Hillsborough students still take it in Grades 1 through 3.
While the FCAT measures students' grasp of state standards, the Stanford is a norm-referenced test that compares them with students across the nation.
Such comparisons will also tell Hillsborough how it stacks up against other districts, said board member Candy Olson, voicing worries about the coming FCAT changes.
"Sequels are rarely pretty, so I'm glad we'll have some additional data," she said.
But the move also demonstrates the district's lack of confidence in the state testing.
In other business Tuesday, the board voted to approve issuing $37.9 million in bonds to replace or improve roofs and air conditioning at up to 36 schools.
The program allows the district to borrow money at nearly 0 percent for the rehabilitation and repair of schools, with interest reimbursed from federal stimulus money.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400.