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Posted at 3:02 PM ET, 07/13/2010

Florida standardized test results challenged

By Valerie Strauss

Yet another problem with standardized test scores: This time, six of Florida’s largest school districts have formally complained to state officials about problems with the 2010 scores of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests and have asked the state to delay releasing grades given to schools based on the scores.

The FCAT scores have been controversial for months; NCES Pearson, the company charged with administering the test, was very late in reporting the results this year, and Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith blasted the delay as “absolutely unacceptable.”

Now he has received a formal complaint from the superintendents of the Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Duval, Volusia and Leon county school districts saying that each found possible problems in the results and asking for a committee of experts to review the data.

"Something is wrong, and we don’t know what it is," Broward Schools Superintendent James Notter was quoted as saying by the Orlando Sentinel. "Why do we have to be reactive to grades that are going to fall without a quality explanation?"

Smith said he had faith in the scores but would nonetheless seek an independent reviewer to evaluate their validity.

FCAT scores are important in Florida because they help dictate a great deal in the public education system, including principal and teacher placement, school schedules, individual school grades issued by the state and more.

The problems with the 2010 scores are not identical in each complaining district, but a year-to-year comparison, particularly with scores of elementary school students in the lowest 25 percent in reading and math, appear to be unrealistic.

For example, the Sentinel reported, about 20 percent of Broward County’s elementary schools usually see a dip in fourth-grade reading scores, but the 2010 results showed about 65 percent of fourth-grade reading scores dropped.

Is it possible that the scores reflect how well the students did? Of course. If so, it would be just another example of the inherent variability of test scores that today's school reformers like to ignore.

And it would be one of the many fine reasons for ending the practice of using standardized tests for any high-stakes decision.

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By Valerie Strauss  | July 13, 2010; 3:02 PM ET
Categories:  Standardized Tests  | Tags:  FCAT, FCAT scores and anomalies, challenge to FCAT scores, problems with FCAT, standardized tests in florida  
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The blunt tool of standardized tests (IMHO) is insufficient to properly measure progress. *AND* teachers don't have the tools to reward students for desirable behavior once the students progress beyond early elementary. No two students have the same motivation for learning, and our teachers need to be able to tailor instruction, measurement and rewards to individual needs.

David Wilkins

Posted by: dwilkins1 | July 13, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

There are so many problems with standardized tests that I can't list them all here. But I wish the media would start talking about them. People actually think they are reliable.

Posted by: aby1 | July 13, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Floridians paid 254 million to have papers graded over 5 years? The easiest way to steal taxpayers money is through educational means! Pearson, the fcat provider in Florida, has many connections to the Bush family. Most of the fdoe higher ups are Jeb Bush appointees. Jeb Bush had 8 years to fix Florida school system, now he and Thrasher want senate bill 6 passed, so they can get the 900 million for teacher testing to profit all their educational program and textbook companies.

Posted by: roosboys | July 13, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

It's frustrating to think that Pearson is the company that Montgomery Co. Public Schools is paying to produce their curriculum for sale. I sure wish education would remain a non profit entity.

Posted by: musiclady | July 13, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

WHAT WILL IT ULTIMATELY TAKE FOR THOSE IN THIS COUNTRY WHO STILL HOLD A high value for education to catch on to the greed and vie for power driving educational decision making in our country? Florida is just one of many victims of Pearson's hand in corrupt gov't intrusion into education (see June 27 Palm Beach Post FCAT article)

Consider: Standardized Testing became BIG BUSINESS with the W BUSH signing of NCLB (2002)

Pearson's 254 million dollar contract with FL, for example, for their FCAT testing (lowest bid) will be continued until 2013 even tho Pearson has been involved in some of the biggest testing blunders in a decade, including, but not limited to:
-4,400 SAT scores miscalculated in 2006 (settled out of court for $2.85 million)
-Similar problems this year in Wy as Fl with score calculation errors-no settlement as of yet
-In SC 2008 Pearson miscalculated test results for 9,000 students
-Wyoming accused Pearson of defaulting on its 2010 contract after widespread computer problems. Wyoming demanded $9 million.
-In 2002 Austin TX sued Pearson in fed court alleging the company delivered software that couldn't accurately calculate grade pt averages. Suit dropped after reaching an "agreement".

And even tho FL can fine Pearson (per contract) up to $25 million FL has only asked for $3 million. Under what circumstances would a state NOT demand money due to them particularly during one of the toughest economical times of its history? The PB Post article even points out that "a penalty that stiff won't bankrupt Pearson. The international conglomerate, which owns the Financial Times and Penguin Press clears about 7.1 Billion a year"
But FL is not asking for MAX PENALTY? WHY?

The lack good common sense here smells fishy, or oily? Slippery? I mention this because...

Pearson, is headquartered in London, along with another fairly infamous company, both in bed with politicians and eroding America day by day.

It is clearly time for the American community who pay taxes and who are mostly law-abiding fairly ethical citizens and, more importantly, NOT in bed with corrupt law makers, big business, and politicians to take back local control of schools before the gov't creates a situation from which we cannot rebound. And people worry about the 20 year impact of the oil spill, try the 20 year effect of this problem on for size.

Let's stop this nonsense once and for all, give back local control to schools, and get these corrupt politicians as far away from school district governance as possible and start holding THEM accountable for their behaviors and every dollar they earn or bring in.

Enough...Americans must cap this once and for all?! Stop pointing fingers at teachers, principals, supt's, and school boards for our ed problems and look at your legislators. The writing is on the chalkboard and it doesn't take long to do the math!

Posted by: sikacoruptpoltikn | July 14, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

And to think they wanted to tie our pay to these test scores in Florida. Absolute garbage.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | July 15, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

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