Putting Education Reform To The Test

Stakes High As Students Prepare For Another Round Of The FCAT


Before Florida students take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test this month, the Florida Department of Education wants them to take a pledge. The pledge says they agree not to cheat, and they should understand that doing so will invalidate their test results. Students are not required to sign the pledge.

While there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of cheating in the state, FDOE decided to jump on the bandwagon with other states that have crafted such a pledge.The adults aren’t being asked to take the pledge.

The pressure is high for teachers and administrators.  FCAT scores play heavily into the merit pay system that’s being crafted for them.

Adding to this uncertainty is the looming departure of the FCAT entirely. End-of-course assessments are now being phased in and will eventually take the place of the FCAT. Legislation awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature requires the state to penalize schools financially when students fail certain end-of-course exams.

House bill 7059 says penalties will start being doled out four years into the new assessment testing. Schools will forfeit some funding when students fail tests in courses like biology and algebra. The penalty is one-sixth of the student’s full-time equivalent (FTE) funding. Currently, that equals $1,062. The money would have to be returned to the state for each student that failed. The formula includes other factors that would enable schools to avoid paying the penalty, depending on how many students fail the courses statewide.

Until the new tests are in place, the FCAT is still the bellwether for teachers and students. Concerns about possible FCAT score tampering led to a review of tests in 14 Florida school districts last year. Red flags included excessive erasure marks and wrong answers that were changed to the correct ones.

The review was prompted by a new test security company that was hired to catch cheaters. Further investigation cleared most of the schools in question of any wrongdoing.



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