Sunday, February 18, 2018
Editorials

Education chief should step in on testing snag

By achieving a certain score on either the ACT or SAT, thousands of Florida high school students preparing to graduate are allowed to bypass the state's dreaded FCAT. But those same students have been thrust into an academic limbo because state education officials still have not settled on what new ACT or SAT score is acceptable for a passing grade.

Raising academic standards is commendable, but high school students should not be left in limbo by moving the goalposts and by bureaucratic inertia. New Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett should allow the pre-existing passing grade standards to remain in place until his agency can issue new standards in time for all students to know well in advance what is expected from them.

Since 2009, under state education guidelines, a high school junior earning a minimum score of 18 in reading and 15 in math on the ACT, or a 420 in reading and a 340 in math on the SAT would satisfy FCAT graduation requirements. Now students across Florida are being told their previously acceptable ACT and SAT scores might not be high enough to satisfy their FCAT requirement as the state drafts higher standards. The problem is that state education officials have been unable to agree on what a passing score should be to match up with a more rigorous FCAT. The needless confusion could force thousands of students to retake remedial courses and retake tests they thought they had already passed.

The Florida Department of Education's muddled handling of what constitutes an acceptable concordant score policy could unfairly jeopardize a student's graduation and hurt his or her chances of getting into college or finding a job. No acceptable test score, no high school diploma, no bright future.

State Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Lutz, has urged Bennett to adopt some common sense by applying the existing passing concordant score standards until a new rubric can be determined. Legg is right. Florida high school students who acted in good faith should not have their lives upended because Tallahassee bureaucrats could not make up their minds in a timely manner.

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