Putting Education Reform To The Test

About That 3rd Grade Reading Requirement

Senate Education Chairman John Legg.

The Florida Senate

Senate Education Chairman John Legg.

Yesterday, a Senate committee appeared to suspend for one year Florida’s requirement that the lowest-performing 3rd graders be held back while the state validates results from its new test.

But Senate Education committee chairman John Legg says it’s not that simple.

What the committee actually did, Legg says, is put the responsibility on school districts whether students stay in 3rd grade or move to 4th grade. So some students with the lowest scores on the state language arts exam could still be retained this year.

“They asked us to trust them,” Legg says of the request from school district leaders.

Florida law requires 3rd grade students earning the lowest score on the state reading test spend another year in 3rd grade to improve their reading. Students can get an exemption from the requirement by submitting a portfolio of their work, through alternative test scores or other methods.

But this year Florida is switching from the FCAT to the new Florida Standards Assessments. Part of switching to a new exam is proving the results accurately measure what they intend to measure — a process know as validation.

Legg says the Florida Department of Education doesn’t expect to finish its full analysis of this year’s results until October — after the beginning of the next school year. Lawmakers were concerned students might be held back based on invalid test results.

School districts say they know which students need to be held back and which don’t. So senators struck a compromise.

This year, according to the change approved Wednesday, the lowest-scoring 20 percent of students would be labeled “at risk.” It will then be up to the school district to prove the student should move on to 4th grade.

Bottom line: even if the full Senate and House approve the compromise, some 3rd graders may still be retained this year.


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