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.


  • Obcharmed

    Is this seminole county

  • How about looking at the prompt—Write about a time you rode a camel.  How many kids in the 4th grade do you know who have ridden camels?  Not to mention that in the past, the writing was looked at as a draft.  Can you write a 5 paragraph polished essay in 45 minutes on a topic you know nothing about?  In college, we were given 3 hours to write 2 essays on topics we had learned about for the entire semester.  But Florida expects nine year olds to write a “polished” essay from scratch in 45 minutes.  Talk about insanity!  I am all for standards, but let them appropriate for the age of the student.

    • The instructions were to imagine you or someone else riding a camel and to write a story about it. Some teachers were complaining that 4th graders don’t know what camels are. Seriously? One teacher asked, “when do we see camels in Central Florida?” Well, I dunno – when you do you see lions and tigers and bears in Central Florida? Do the students not know what those are?

      • 3721

        hmm a thought so I asked my kid what a camel was and they said I don’t know.. lions tigers and bears are in many more stories that kids read. Yes they should no I would think but is that their fault for not knowing?

    • 3721

      I remember last year my oldest came home and said mom we had to right to a celebrity telling them why they should visit our town but this place sucks and there is no reason for them to come here.

  • Giselle

    I really do hope for this year that a little more thought and common sense be put into the topic that they are having these 9 year old kids write about. writing a 5 paragraph essay for a nine year old is not easy to begin with, not to mention on a topic that has never been discussed before or they are not familiar with. i know they look for creativity, but creativity cannot be accomplised especially when there is little or no understanding about the topic. This is not a true measure of a childs intelligence or writing skill. I believe it to be very unfair.

  • 3721

    Personally I don’t understand how my son got a 3.5 on the reading a 4 on the math and a 3 on the writing and is going to fail over the one score. He is going to fail because of one subject. The worst part is he took that test after coming back from being out of town for 2 weeks because his grandpa died. He normally got 4′s on his writing prompts in class.

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