Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Florida education officials got manipulative when they didn’t get what they wanted

From, by Shannon Nickinson

Did our sophomores suddenly get stupid? Or did our state education officials get more manipulative when they didn’t get what they wanted?

The state Department of Education went into a swivet once it found out the new grading standards for the writing portion of FCAT 2.0, the high-stakes standardized test, mean school grades will drop like a stone.

No surprise there.

Every time something new is added to the FCAT mix, scores and grades plummet.

Add writing. Grades drop. Add science. Grades drop. Every time it happens, state officials tinker with the formula, and, presto, all is well.

This year, they did it again.

When a passing grade on writing took a score of 4, only a dismal 38 percent of the state’s 10th-graders met the mark.

Now that a passing grade is 3, the percentage is much higher, and everyone in Tallahassee feels better about themselves. And about our kids.

This year’s sophomores have scored well since they were first tested on writing as fourth-graders in 2006, according to statistics.

But this year, if 4 were the standard, only 36 percent of Escambia students would have passed; with 3 as the standard, it’s a whopping 81 percent.

In Santa Rosa, at the 4 standard, 44 percent pass; with 3 as the standard, it leaps to 88 percent — among the best in the state.

Were the students being strung along beforehand by lenient evaluators? Or did they suffer massive, collective brain freeze in the past two years?


Maybe they can’t craft an essay response to a writing prompt with a topic sentence and at least three to five supporting details that show an ability to synthesize facts and build a persuasive argument using descriptive details.

Maybe all of their thoughts are 140 characters long.

But most plausibly, this latest FCAT flap lays bare the perils of being a slave to the standardized test.

If your argument is that the test is the best measure of what a child should know at a given grade level, you shouldn’t lower the standard every time the results don’t suit you.

That’s like racing from the stop sign to the mailbox and when the other kid beats you, saying the race was really to the mailbox AND BACK, and since you are halfway back to the stop sign, you win after all.

Either the standard is the standard, or it isn’t.

I’ve heard some teachers speculate that moving the bar to a place you know schools can’t reach, then using the fact that they can’t reach it as proof of their inadequacy is a deliberate effort to discredit public schools as a whole to make a political point.

I’m not willing to go that far — yet. But I do believe students are more than the sum of their test scores.

Some kids start out so far behind their peers and face such indifference at home about whether they learn to read, do their homework and avoid comma splices, that Annie Sullivan couldn’t work a miracle and get them up to FCAT 2.0.

If all anyone cares about is getting those extra three-tenths of a point out of them on one part of one test, we — and they — lose the chance to learn what they really are worth.

No comments:

Post a Comment