Students across the state are beginning the annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test season this week, and critics of the high-stakes test have some new complaints this year.
The Florida Department of Education has raised minimum requirements for the reading portion of the test. The goal is to improve performance long-term, but state officials admit that will mean more students will fail the exam in the short run.
Fund Education Now, an Orlando-based coalition of parent organizations, argues that the new standards are designed to fail half the students taking the test.
“We do not accept that any child must be automatically retained solely on the basis of one test, one day,” the group wrote in a press release. “We find the motives behind moving the FCAT 2.0 cut scores to be more about the ‘adults in the industry’ than the children, their teachers or their schools.”
There’s a lot riding on FCAT scores — whether a student can graduate or advance with their classmates; school grades that might affect property values — but there’s even more on the line this year. These FCAT scores will factor into the mathematical formula that Florida schools are using to determine which teachers are the most successful in raising their students’ FCAT scores.
The teachers who raise scores the most, according to the formula, will be paid more.
For the first time students are signing an anti-cheating pledge when they take the FCAT this year.
Fund Education Now is disappointed in the assumptions of that pledge.
“We are disturbed that their teachers are forced to deliver the same ‘Don’t cheat or else’ threat over and over throughout the week and that children repeatedly have to sign their names before each test section,” the groups said in a statement. “Clearly, FL DOE is so doubtful about the character and honesty of our children that they must be admonished not to cheat.”