TAMPA — Saying the higher-than-usual number of FCAT erasure marks reflects a test-taking strategy — not cheating — the Hillsborough County School District is standing by students at James Elementary School.
"This school did everything on the up-and-up," said Sam Whitten, director of assessment and accountability for the district.
The state has held up the grade for the east Tampa school based on technology that flags anomalies in the answer sheets for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Analysts determined the number of erasures was slightly higher than expected.
But an inquiry revealed that some fifth graders had been taught a strategy for questions about a difficult reading passage.
Rather than lingering over the passage, they were advised to guess the answers, mark the passage to revisit, and then move on to easier questions. That way, Whitten said, the students would not run out of time.
Whitten said he has sent the response to the state. He did not know how soon the district will receive a reply or when James will have its grade.