Lawmakers asked Education Commissioner Pam Stewart that question in November.
“Are we actually testing their writing,” Stewart said, “or are we then testing their computer skills? I would suggest to you the answer to that really is we need to be doing both.”
Typing was a big enough question about the FSA that the Florida Department of Education decided to let students through 7th grade take a paper and pencil version of the writing test.
But should it be? Florida has used online exams for several years. The state is requiring schools deliver half of classroom instruction digitally, starting this fall. And kids can be pretty adept with computers, tablets and other devices.
Using results from a 2012 assessment given to about a half-million 15-year-olds around the world, a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that even though more boys struggled to show basic proficiency in reading, math and science than did girls, boys still ultimately outperformed girls in math. The gap was widest at the top, with high-achieving boys scoring significantly higher than the top girls.
Across OECD countries, boys scored an average of 11 points higher than girls on a test where the average score was 494, and had a 20-point advantage among the top 10% of students of both sexes.
There’s a bi-partisan push to make it easier for students to apply for federal financial aid. But experts say trimming questions could cause colleges to choose other financial aid applications — and those may not be free.
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says test-maker American Institutes for Research seems to have corrected the problems which caused some school districts to shut down testing this week. Stewart says districts are on pace to finish testing during the two-week window.
And tests last night showed it could handle 250,000 students testing at the same time, she added. That’s the maximum number that will test simultaneously when the state starts administering the FSA math and reading exams in the next month. Many of those are also computer based, and more students will take those exams online that need to take writing via computer.
Stewart said the state’s testing contractor, American Institutes for Research, or AIR, has taken “full responsibility” for the problems this week. The firm has a three-year, $107-million contract with the state to provide statewide exams, with an option for three more years of renewals.
Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he won’t resume testing until the state can prove everything is working. Palm Beach school also will not test students on Wednesday.
“Improving the system alone isn’t sufficient for me, for my teachers, or my students,” Carvalho said at a morning press conference. “I respect them too much. Either they have it right, or they don’t. And improvement of something that broke down is not sufficient.”
This morning, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart sent an email to school superintendents explaining what happened. The problem, she says, was with test firm American Institutes for Research.
Here’s Stewart’s email:
The department worked with AIR throughout the day and into the evening yesterday to better understand the issues that affected online testing in Florida on Monday. AIR has determined that a software issue caused log-in issues, including delays and error messages for a number of districts. AIR reports that of the 69,177 tests that were started yesterday, 67,745 were successfully completed.
School districts around the state report students had trouble logging in or experienced slow loading time with Florida's new online writing exam.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
School districts across the state said students had trouble logging in to the state’s new writing exam Monday. And the test is running slowly for many who do manage to sign in.
Miami-Dade schools said they’re suspending all online testing for 8th through 10th graders until the state can prove the new system can handle the traffic.
Schools in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties suspended testing for students who couldn’t log on Monday.
It’s unclear why students are having trouble with the new exam. Florida Department of Education officials said they were investigating.
Students had plenty of other days to take the test, said spokesman Meghan Collins.
“This is a 90-minute test;” Collins said in a statement, “students have a two-week window, plus a makeup window, to complete the test. Commissioner Stewart is looking into any reported issues to determine the cause and will work to immediately resolve it.”
At least 35 districts reported problems with the exam, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Miami-Dade school officials said the problem appeared to be the test vendor, American Institutes for Research, couldn’t handle the number of students attempting to log in to the test.
School superintendents repeatedly said they expected technological problems with the exam. Parents and educators have worried the exam has been rushed into replacing the FCAT.
Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Monday’s issues are a symptom of bigger problems with the test.
“You have not field tested this exam in Florida,” Carvalho said. “You have not developed a baseline.
“But you’re willing to run with what you have. Seems like you simply want to get it done rather than getting it right.”
Carvalho is one of many superintendents asking that this year’s test results not be used to calculate public school grades or teacher evaluation. They also don’t want the results to determine which third graders are held back for low reading scores.
Here’s what education writers around the state are reporting:
Here’s what I did to you: I taught you three different ways to divide multidigit numbers except the one way everyone else in the world was taught. I tried my best to teach it to you, but since I was never taught this way, I know I confused you quite a bit. When you went home to your mom and dad confused as to how to solve a division problem with pictures and partial quotients, your parents — out of desperation — showed you how they were taught. We call that the standard algorithm, which in Common Core is a dirty word in fifth grade.
The next day, you came back to school so excited because you got it! You weren’t confused anymore. All your answers were correct because you checked them using multiplication.
And then, I did the unthinkable. I gave you a zero because you didn’t do it my way, the Common Core way.