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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The FCAT is about to get tougher

From the Palm Beach Post

by Allison Ross

The Florida Department of Education is working on revising the scoring system for the all-important FCAT as part of its move from the FCAT to the new FCAT 2.0.

The proposed scoring changes could make it harder for some students to pass the high-stakes standardized exams by setting the bar higher in some instances to achieve different levels of proficiency.

The state is also coming up with a scoring plan for its new Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, which it debuted last year.

The scoring changes have widespread implications: FCAT scores are used for a number of important things, from deciding whether a third grader gets to move on to fourth grade, to whether a student can graduate, to what grade a school gets. And with the new system of evaluations for teachers that relies on FCAT results of students, teachers’ evaluations, too, could be affected.

To provide the public an easy way to have input on the proposed changes to the FCAT scoring system, the Florida Department of Education has scheduled a workshop at 1:30 p.m. today at the Palm Beach County School District Support Center, 1400 North Florida Mango, West Palm Beach.

People can also submit feedback to the DoE here.

The proposed changes to the FCAT scoring aim to both raise the bar for performance and smooth out the percentage of students passing the FCAT in each grade level. Under the current system, the percentage of elementary kids passing the FCAT has historically been higher than the percentage of those in high school passing their high-stakes exams.

For instance, last year, 72 percent of third-graders scored a 3 or above on the reading FCAT. (Third-graders need to score at least a 2 on that test to move on to fourth grade, generally.) Under the proposed change in scoring, only 57 percent of Florida students would have scored at level 3 or above.

However, in tenth grade, the percentage of students scoring a three or above on the reading FCAT would have been 56 percent if the new scoring system was in place last year, instead of only 39 percent.

“The effort is to provide consistent expectations across grade levels,” said Mark Howard, the Palm Beach County School District’s director of research and evaluation.

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