Latest Grading Mistakes Spur Calls for Testing Changes
July 25, 2012 | WMFE - The Florida Department of Education is once again being criticized after it revised more than 200 school grades in 40 of the state's 67 school districts. This comes a month after it released the scores. The revision is the latest in a series of fumbles over the state's school accountability system and it's causing more people to voice concerns over whether Florida schools are testing too much.
The Florida Department of Education had revise the grades of some 200 elementary and middle schools after making a mistake in the grading formula. Some observers are commending the department for catching the error and fixing it quickly but others aren’t so thrilled with what the state has been doing. Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons is one of them.
“We’ve changed these things so quickly and in such a hurry, that now we’re making mistakes.” Pons said. “There’s so much FCAT fatigue that the test is starting to lose credibility.”
The Department has been under heavy criticism for several months. As the state increased the difficulty of the FCAT, it also made changes to the formula used to grade schools. When FCAT scores came in lower than expected, school grades dropped as well.
Some state officials, like Democratic State Senator Bill Montford of Apalachicola, says Florida needs to slow down and figure out what its goals are:
“Someone needs to pull everyone together at the table and make some decisions.” Montford said. “Let’s find out where we are today, what’s being demanded of school districts and what resources are needed to accomplish that. If we can do it, then let’s do it and if we can’t, then we need to adjust the scale.”
But Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson says the changes are meant to get students ready for even tougher tests coming soon.
In about two years Florida will be joining more than 40 other states in bringing in a nationalized test to replace the FCAT. That test is called the common core.
Jaryn Emhoff, spokeswoman for the school reform group the Foundation for Florida’s Future, says the pain the education system is enduring now will pay off when those common core tests start up in 2015.
“The changes now and the increase in rigor is to prepare students so there isn’t as much of a shock three years from now.” Emhoff said. “The thing about common core is that it’s benchmarked to our competitors around the world.”
But getting there is proving difficult. After results for the writing test released earlier in the year showed only about a quarter of students passed, the state was flooded with concerns from worried parents. Several school districts signed petitions either in opposition to standardized testing or calling for changes to the way such tests are used. And even Governor Rick Scott recently expressed concern that the state may be testing too much.