Preliminary writing scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) have plunged, and state education leaders are taking emergency action. Standards were raised a year ago, making the test more rigorous. The passing grade is 4. The highest possible score is 6.
So how bad are the results? 81 percent of 4th graders scored at least a 4 last year. On the latest test, just 27 percent scored that high. Only 33 percent of 8th graders passed, down from 82 percent. 10th graders passing the writing test dropped from 75 to 38 percent.
The numbers were so shocking that the Florida Board of Education held an emergency meeting Tuesday. On a motion made by Vice Chairman Roberto Martinez, the panel decided to immediately lower the passing score from 4 to 3. The change is a half point lower than anticipated.
Board member John Padget said the drop would hold school districts harmless. “We should not have a surprise at this late time,” said Padget, “and so I think the motion of Vice Chair Martinez based on the data I’ve seen, virtually holds the schools harmless with a respect to this year’s scoring. But I would support that for this year only.”
In other words, the failing writing scores won’t cost a lot of schools money this year. School funding is tied to how well students perform on the FCAT.
Governor Rick Scott issued this statement after he heard about the low writing scores:
“Our students must know how to read and write, and our education system must be able to measure and benchmark their progress so we can set clear education goals. The significant contrast in this year’s writing scores is an obvious indication that the Department of Education needs to review the issue and recommend an action plan so that our schools, parents, teachers and students have a clear understanding of the results.”
Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said the Department of Education is conducting an internal review of FCAT writing. He said more information may be available to the board by the end of May.
Board members want to hear the full results of the DOE review by the end of the summer.