Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida says it's likely to exact penalties for late FCAT scores

The company contracted by the state to administer the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test may be on the hook for millions of dollars in damages for this year's scoring delays.

The 2009 contract between NCS Pearson and the Florida Department of Education requires the company to pay escalating penalties for results deemed "extremely critical," including the results of the reading and math tests in grades 4-10 and the science tests given to grades 5, 8 and 11.

Some of those results were due May 19, according to the contract. The financial hit rises to $250,000 a day beginning on the seventh business day they're late.

"There's a very high possibility that we're going to exercise our rights under that section," DOE spokesman Tom Butler said Monday.

A powerful state senator took it up a notch. "If it was up to me, I'd fire 'em … and make them famous with other states," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a former Okaloosa County superintendent who sits on the Senate K-12 Education Policy Committee.

Pearson did not respond to requests for comment. Its $254 million contract ends in November 2013.

State K-12 Chancellor Frances Haithcock told superintendents Friday night that many FCAT results are likely to be delayed until the end of June — a month behind schedule — because of problems with Pearson's "database technology."

Haithcock said there are no problems with accuracy. And the delay does not affect third-graders or high school seniors, who are at risk of retention or not graduating, respectively, based on FCAT results.

But there's little doubt that the delay will further mar Florida's test-heavy accountability system, never popular with parents or teachers, and cause headaches for some school districts.

Pinellas superintendent Julie Janssen described her reaction as "pretty frustrated."

In Pinellas, FCAT scores are the linchpin in a series of intertwined decisions on everything from scheduling to professional development. Which students need remedial help? How many remedial classes are needed? Which teachers must be moved? How to fix school improvement plans?

Janssen said the delay is also likely to force the district to make decisions about the principals at D-rated Boca Ciega and Dixie Hollins high schools before it has the data it wanted. Those schools are coming under more state scrutiny in the fall. But whether leadership changes were needed was supposed to hinge on whether FCAT scores showed gains.

"I can't wait until the end of the month to move forward on making plans for the fall," Janssen said.

In Hillsborough, the delays probably won't cause major disruptions, said assistant superintendent Lewis Brinson.

Principals and administrators normally like to analyze student data in June, make changes if necessary, and then take a few weeks off before the next school year starts, he said. The delays will "probably cause some people to rearrange their vacations."

It's possible there might be longer lines at guidance counselors' offices in August, if FCAT scores force some students to change schedules. But he predicted there wouldn't be major staffing changes unless a school's performance changed dramatically.

"It's an inconvenience, but we'll get over it," he said.

The state is also seeing a long delay in FCAT writing scores, usually the first released. But it's unclear how much Pearson may be liable, because of a state decision to reduce the number of graders this year from two to one.

Gaetz, said Pearson should pay for its mistakes. But he said it's tough to put a price on lost time.

"Even if we make them pay a big penalty," he said, "it doesn't help that kid or that teacher who would have been able to use the month of June in an effective way."

Times staff writer Tom Marshall contributed to this report.

Florida says it's likely to exact penalties for late FCAT scores 06/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 1:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: A proud moment for civic involvement in Hillsborough County


    It took private citizens less than 24 hours to do what their elected leaders in Hillsborough County could not for the past three months: Find the moral fortitude and the money to move a century-old Confederate war memorial from outside the county courthouse. Thursday's achievement was a lesson in leadership to county …

    The Hillsborough County Commission dithered for three months over moving the Memoria in Aeterna monument from the old county courthouse.
  2. Fort Myers woman arrested for doing cocaine off iPhone in parent pick-up line

    Bizarre News

    A Fort Myers woman was arrested Tuesday after police saw her snorting cocaine off her iPhone while in the parent pick-up line at a Lee County middle school.

    Christina Hester, 39, faces two different drug-related charges, according to police records. [Lee County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic


    UPDATE: At 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  4. Editorial: Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law


    The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School …

  5. Editorial: Fix funding unfairness in Florida foster care system


    Many of the children in Florida's foster care system already have been failed by their parents. The last thing these kids need is to be failed by bureaucracy, too, and yet that's exactly what appears to be happening because of a needlessly rigid funding formula set up by the Florida Legislature. Child welfare agencies …

    The Legislature may have had good intentions when it came up with the funding plan, but it’s obvious that there is some unfairness built into it. The funding may be complicated, but the goal is simple: Making sure every child in need gets the help he or she needs.