BROOKSVILLE — There were signs, announcements, requests, pleas, even phone calls home. But 27 Hernando County students somehow didn't get the word.
All saw their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests invalidated over the last two weeks for violating a state ban on cell phones and electronic devices during testing.
A dozen of those students were at Nature Coast Technical High, with a majority in 11th-grade science tests that count against the school's grade but do not affect graduation, testing specialist Linda Peirce said Wednesday.
"In some cases they were 12th-graders, and that is their consequence because it was their last chance to retake (the FCAT) before graduation," she said. Students also will face school discipline for disregarding the rule.
Since the fall, the state Education Department has required that scores be canceled for any student found to have an electronic device during testing. For weeks, a bulletin on the School Board's Web site spelled out the policy even more plainly.
"If your child is found with an electronic device that reproduces, transmits, calculates, or records (e.g., a cell phone, camera, or pager) in his or her pocket, at his or her desk, or within his or her reach during testing, the test will be invalidated," it says.
Peirce said some schools made automated phone calls to remind parents, and all posted state-mandated signs.
"Those announcements were made at the beginning of every test session," she added. In many schools, students' phones were collected, labeled and held at the front of the room until the end of the test.
"Unfortunately, not all kids — I don't want to say they don't listen, but &"
She didn't need to finish the thought.
No Hernando students have been found flipping open their cell phones to photograph a test, as been reported at one school in the Panhandle.
Every year some tests are invalidated, but it's usually just a handful for misbehavior or starting work early on the next section of the test booklet, Peirce said. But the new rule has resulted in a statewide spike in such problems.
"This is higher than normal because of the cell phone thing," she added, voicing hopes for improvement next year as word gets out about the phone ban. "At some point it is the student's responsibility not to do it."
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.