For the first time in a over 10 years, the Florida Board of Education has increased the proficiency “cut” scores for all levels of the FCAT reading and math exams. The change, adopted unanimously Monday morning, results from the state’s move to a new, more rigorous version of the FCAT.
The changes will be effective for the spring administration of the test.
A number of groups opposed education commissioner Gerard Robinson’s recommendation to up the tenth-grade reading score two points beyond what several panels of experts had proposed. Those educators argued in favor of higher scores at the lower grade levels, saying the passing marks were misaligned since the start of the FCAT. Elementary scores were too low, making it look as if larger numbers of students were at grade level than was realistic, they said, while the high school scores were too high, making it look as if kids became sudden failures on entering ninth grade.
“This was an opportunity to address that particular issue,” said Sen. Bill Montford, executive director of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “They elected to go the other way.”
The Superintendent Association along with some of the members of the state’s panels reviewing the scores, expressed disappointment with the State Board in choosing the score they did.
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino, from Pasco county praised the process of exploring the scores with hundreds of educators, using detailed testing research as a guide, and then following up with leaders of the business community, parents, superintendents, charter schools and colleges.
She added that it seemed unfair to change the end goal for students this year who had been working toward scores they knew. In the past, Fiorentino said, the state gave schools time to implement new initiatives.
Though a spokeswoman, Robinson justified increasing the recommended passing score for the graduation-level reading test by noting that Hillsborough school district data tied an SAT score that indicated no remediation would be needed in college to the FCAT score he proposed.
Students do have several opportunities to pass that exam, which is first given in tenth grade.