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FCAT delay may cost Hernando school district

BROOKSVILLE — As if the uncertainty about when the test scores would arrive didn't cause enough headaches.

Now the Hernando County School District is trying to develop a plan to analyze Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test data and place students in the right classes for the coming year without knowing how much of the associated expense might be reimbursed.

"When it comes to crunch time, it's really not clear as to what help we're going to get," superintendent Bryan Blavatt said.

The state Department of Education announced Friday that distribution of FCAT results will begin at 7 p.m. Monday and continue through Wednesday. Some of the results are six weeks late.

Hernando school officials will have to spring into action to get the scores mailed to families. But they also scrutinize data and place students in classes according to their academic needs.

That latter task is typically done in May or early June with the help of assistant principals, assessment teachers, guidance counselors and other staffers who are not on 12-month contracts. Ideally, Blavatt says, he would call some of those staffers back to help out.

To do so, however, would mean additional labor costs for a district already grappling with a $5.8 million budget deficit.

"With things as tight as they are, I don't want to bring them in and decrease what we're going to have for kids next year," Blavatt said.

He said he contacted state officials, urging them to consider those additional costs required to complete the job quickly. Otherwise, principals, secretaries and other 12-month staffers will be scrambling to get the job done, Blavatt said. Another complicating factor: Many of those employees take vacation time at this point in the summer, too.

State officials have assured districts that the costs to mail the scores to families will be covered by NCS Pearson, the testing company responsible for the delay. Education Commissioner Eric Smith last week asked Pearson for initial damages of $3 million, but the company is expected to be on the hook for millions of dollars more.

"I will be doing everything possible within the confines of the law to ensure these funds are used to reimburse our school districts for whatever additional costs they might have to incur as a result of the delays," Smith said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The phrase "whatever additional costs" sounds promising, but is far from a guarantee, Blavatt said. It's unclear if there would be funds to cover the expenses associated with calling back employees.

"The only thing I can be sure of is they're going to take care of the postage," Blavatt said. As far as other expenses, "I want to see it in writing."

A state spokeswoman Friday said the specifics of other expenses that may be covered by Pearson are still being worked out.

Either way, Blavatt said he isn't sure how long it will take to get the results in the mail once they start to arrive.

The scores could wind up on the Internet first.

The district recently opened its AIM-HI data bank to the public. The system, short for Achievement Information Management-Hernando Initiative, has for the last several years been a key tool for teachers, principals and district staffers to track student progress through FCAT scores and other diagnostic test results.

Parents can now access years' worth of their students' data by logging on to AIM-HI; one of the other main advantages is timely, reliable delivery of FCAT scores.

This latest batch of results could be available online within a few days after the district starts to receive them, Blavatt said.

"It shouldn't be long," he said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts

See scores online

FCAT scores start arriving at school districts on Monday, and student scores might be available on the district's new AIM-HI student data portal before they hit mailboxes. Here's how to access the system:

Go to https://aimhi.hcsb.k12.fl.us.

• For the "username" field, enter a student's seven-digit school ID number, which is the lunch number with one or two leading zeros. For example, a lunch number of 55555 would be entered as 0055555, and a lunch number of 123456 would be entered as 0123456.

• For "password," enter the student's birth date. For example, Nov. 22, 1998, would be entered as 11221998.

An important note: To access the data, parents must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on their computer.

FCAT delay may cost Hernando school district 06/26/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 26, 2010 12:20pm]

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