Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson had some explaining to do. Under new standards set forth in FCAT 2.0, about half of Florida’s 9th and 10th graders failed the reading portion of the annual assessment test.
In a teleconference with reporters, Robinson said the unspectacular scores are not surprising since standards are being raised. More is being expected of students as they transition into full implementation of national Common Core State Standards within a few years. “We were very clear that there would be a downtrend in the percentage of students who passed,” said Robinson.
Robinson said he’s not happy that just half of those students passed. “The question is are we happy with the progress that we’re making, are we happy with the level of investment…to make sure that next year and the year after that students are moving in the right direction? Remember, when Florida changed its standards approximately ten years ago, you saw a down slope,” said Robinson. “In the intermediate years, you also found changes. There was a downward trend and then it moved forward.”
So, while the scores are not impressive, they do show improvement. “If you look at last year’s score for 3 and above in grade 9, it was 48 percent. So, it’s higher this year than last year. In grade 10, 39 percent of the students were level 3 or above (in 2011). This year for grade 10, it’s 50 percent,” said Robinson. “Let’s remember this is higher than what we had last year; not as high as what we would like.”
FCAT 2.0 is evaluated this way:
- Level 5: Students demonstrate mastery of the most challenging content of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.
- Level 4: Students demonstrate an above satisfactory level of success with the challenging content of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.
- Level 3: Students demonstrate a satisfactory level of success with the challenging content of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.
- Level 2: Students demonstrate a below satisfactory level of success with the challenging content of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.
- Level 1: Students demonstrate an inadequate level of success with the challenging content of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.
The parent advocacy group FundEducationNow.org is not impressed with the explanations so far. In a group statement, co-founder Linda Kobert said, “As mothers of Florida public school children, we bear witness to the suffering caused by FCAT. Today’s scores mean that 50% of the sophomore class is at risk of being denied a high school diploma and a chance for a brighter future.”
Students must pass the reading portion of the test in order to graduate, although they can also graduate by showing reading proficiency on the SAT or ACT college entry exams. Students have four additional chances to retake the FCAT reading exam.
Fund Education Now co-founder Kathleen Oropeza calls the test critically flawed. “FCAT should be a tiny, diagnostic portion of a child’s school year. Whether scores are good or bad, parents should question whether they are true,” said Oropeza. “If parents and teachers are forbidden from seeing the test and the student’s actual work, where’s the proof of a 4 or 5 or 1?”
Commissioner Robinson plans to send a letter to parents explaining the changes in the FCAT between last year and this year. It will be sent home with student score reports.