Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough County may ease weight of semester exams, reinstate one test exemption

TAMPA — High school teachers hear the question all the time: How much will this test count toward my grade?

At today's 3 p.m. meeting, members of the Hillsborough County School Board may provide an answer. Under a committee proposal, the weight of a semester exam would be eased this year from 33 to 25 percent in order to increase promotion and graduation rates.

And seniors who thought they lost all of their exam exemptions due to the swine flu outbreak may get one of them back.

The exam review started more than a year ago when a committee led by secondary education director Denny Oest formed to examine the links between tests and student promotion. Last year the district reported an 80 percent graduation rate, including students in GED programs. That's 5 points better than the state average.

The committee found that Hills­borough weighs exams more heavily than many counties. Of 27 districts surveyed by the committee, most assigned a weight of 20 to 25 percent.

Several board members said they supported the proposal to ease Hillsborough's exam weight to 25 percent.

"If you're looking at the progress of a student, and the student is making A's and B's on all tests and homework, and then for whatever reason they have a bad day on the exam and make a D, 33 percent can pull your grade down," said Jennifer Faliero.

The exam discussion got more complicated last spring following the swine flu outbreak and several school closures in the county.

At that time, superintendent MaryEllen Elia suspended an incentive program that allowed students in good standing with perfect attendance to skip up to seven of their exams each year.

Parents objected this fall when the board continued that suspension for the entire year, saying it didn't want to encourage students to attend school sick.

There also were complaints about exams being scheduled after the holidays due to a state law that governs when the school year can start.

Neither of those decisions will be altered, officials say, with exams scheduled for the week of Jan. 12.

But the committee will propose reinstating one test exemption this fall for seniors who earned at least a 3 on the science portion of last year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

To qualify, they must maintain at least a C average in the class for both nine-week grading periods, with no final grade below a C; have no debts to their school; and meet the 10th-grade FCAT graduation requirement.

Whether the district ever brings back the attendance exemptions is a tougher question.

Districts including Hillsborough are slated to lose their status as "charter districts" in 2010 and will no longer have the right to exempt students from exams solely on the basis of attendance, said district lobbyist Connie Milito.

The state also is planning to eventually require all students to take end-of-course exams, and Hillsborough is hoping to influence what those tests look like.

"We're still waiting for direction from the state on how end-of-course exams play into grades and graduation requirements," said Oest, the secondary education director. "That's why we're hoping to play a part in the pilot program."

Board members say it's not necessarily a bad thing for students to get used to taking exams.

"I think the weight needs to be significant," said Candy Olson. "I think penalizing someone because they get nervous is something we don't want to do. But there is value in (taking) an exam."

Member Doretha Edgecomb said she liked the idea of shifting more of the grade back into teachers' hands.

"You have to make sure the standards are there and it doesn't become too subjective," she said. "That's my only concern."

But she said allowing students to skip exams solely through attendance would give them a false sense of security and leave them unprepared for the demands of college and the workplace.

"Test taking is not a bad thing," Faliero said. "It does prepare you for work after college."

Tom Marshall can be reached at or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough County may ease weight of semester exams, reinstate one test exemption 10/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2009 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  2. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) takes the field to start the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  3. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  4. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  5. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]