Putting Education Reform To The Test

Explaining How the FCAT Writing Test Changed In 2012


Florida's board of education is meeting today to debate changing scoring requirements on the state writing test.

The Florida Board of Education is holding an emergency meeting this morning to debate whether to lower the passing score on the writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

(Watch here, starting at 10:30)

Results show the state passing rate plunged this year, following changes to FCAT writing last year.

So what changed?

  • Test scores were more dependent on proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  • Likewise, students who misspelled common words were penalized more than students who misspelled a word that might be above their grade or reading level.
  • The scores put more emphasis on arguments supported by logic, specifics, depth, relevance and thoroughness. Students could be penalized for rhetorical questions, memorization or use of false statistics.
  • Florida went back to two scorers. The state had cut back to one reviewer to save money, but added back the second scorer this year. A second scorer meant the possibility of half-point scores when the two were averaged.

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson has recommended the state board take advantage of the second scorer, and lower the passing score to 3.5 from 4 (out of 6 possible points). Doing so would raise the fourth grade passing rate from to 48 percent from 27 percent.

Last year, 81 percent of fourth graders scored a 4 or better on the test.

Also to watch: The FCAT writing changes the board approved last year include scoring changes for 2013 and beyond. Those new scoring standards were to be released this summer. It is unclear if the board will revisit this schedule.

Likewise, school superintendents are asking for an audit of FCAT writing result to see if the problem was the new scoring system or with the test itself.

We’ll update after the board meeting.


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