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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In Florida it is all about Privitization

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Rick Roach
The Sentinel Editorial Board is appalled that after 16 years of using the FCAT standardized test, the academic performance of Florida's kids remains basically flat ("Schools hit sour notes with FCAT swan song," June 22).
The board shouldn't be surprised. The explanation is on the Florida Department of Education's Website under "item difficulty." The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test has been designed to flunk a pre-set number of kids — from 40 percent to 50 percent.
And if, when all the tests are in, it's discovered that the test designers were off, there's a simple fix: The pass-fail minimum score can be moved up or down to get whatever failure rate officials want.
Why would they do that? A big reason is that if public schools can be made to look bad enough, the public will be willing to hand them over to privatization. It's always wise to follow the money.
Readers need to know that Orange County schools already use sophisticated software programs to track daily student progress, and if a particular instructional program isn't working, teachers do the common-sense thing: They switch programs.
Hard evidence of our success is available to those willing to look past political agendas and check the data for themselves. If more people were willing to do that, the foolishness would stop. And something else would happen: There would be more money for real education.
The Sentinel says, correctly, that "close to 33,000 students might be held back next year for failing to learn enough." Readers may be surprised to learn that a great many, maybe most, of those 33,000 third-graders are good students.
Recently, Laela, the daughter of one of my constituents, had an almost straight-A average for the year. But her FCAT score was one point shy of the minimum passing score, and she was sent back to repeat the third grade.
Should you care? If you pay taxes you certainly should, because every one of those 33,000 kids who repeats third grade costs about $11,000. Do the math, and it's clear we're talking real money, to do something that research says is a mistake — making kids repeat a grade instead of identifying and fixing their problems.
Laela was fortunate, however. With coaching, she proved herself on a benchmark test and went on to fourth grade.
Will a new test to replace FCAT help? Not if the political aim of making public schools look bad stays in place.
Judge "Rick" Roach is an Orange County School Board member for District 3.

1 comment:

  1. I was just talking to a newer teacher about this today. She was shocked and dismayed at the growth of her 9th grade students in reading; it took me years as a teacher before I stopped believing the hype, inconsistencies, and fallacies of the standardized testing world. Well, the "growth" rate means nothing because the test changes every year (texts and questions change) and almost invariably, the passing rate stays the same. Essentially, we have students competing against each other, not against any standard. When I tell people this, they cannot fathom it. Can you imagine if students went from 50% passing to 70% passing? No one would believe it; everyone would say the test is too easy. Ironically, people WOULD believe if students went from 50% passing to 30% passing; they would say that the previous tests were too easy, and our students really cannot read. Most people don't even realize that the concordant ACT Reading Score is 19; this is considered COLLEGE READY ( I have students that can go to college, but their reading scores on FCAT are 1 or 2. More to the point, why is the public not questioning how the points system works? The 10th Grade scale goes from 188 to 302. What the heck does that mean? We just unquestionably accept that 245 (for 10th grade) is passing. Why? Why are we putting so much faith into people who create these systems? They rarely publish the tests. I haven't seen Florida release a test since 2006; at least that is the last year available on the website.

    By the way, for the new test coming up, I see very little for educators to use. is the website address for parents, students, teachers, etc. For 10th grade, I see 9 (yes only 9) reading questions and answers and 1 (ONLY 1) writing prompt. There is no anchor set for the writing prompt, only the prompt. I cannot imagine teaching an AP class with these materials. At least the College Board provides many multiple choice practice tests and anchor sets (examples of low, mid, and high level writing) since like 1999, perhaps beyond if you have a teacher that has been teaching for awhile.

    They say teachers have known about this for years; yes, those of us who have been around for the past 2 years or more have known. We also trusted that we would have materials that would allow us to prepare our students. Well, we have 1 prompt and 9 multiple choice questions. That is it. Great job, Florida!

    Oh, and they have not set a standard for writing. See

    These are the statements that bother me:

    "The weighting of the Text-based Writing component relative to the Reading, Language, and Listening component will be determined in spring 2015 after analysis of field test and operational data."

    "Because the field test for the Text-based Writing component will be conducted in December 2014, no additional field test tasks will be included in the operational assessments of this component."

    If I am reading this correctly, it seems they don't know how much the writing component will be worth, and they plan on having a field test done in DECEMBER 2014! So it seems that there is no actual standard, and teachers will have little if nothing to go on to help our students.

    We are putting our trust in people who have no common sense, and the media/politicians demonize teachers by holding them "accountable" at every turn. You try teaching students how to write with no examples of what "adequate" writing looks like (according to FLDOE; I already know what it SHOULD look like) and a single prompt. Why is no one reporting on this??? We go back in 3 weeks!