Parents puzzled over FCAT scores, change in standards

Board of Education drops passing grade for writing

BOCA RATON, Fla. - The Florida Board of Education voted Tuesday on an emergency rule, lowering the passing grade on the FCAT to keep the failure rate the same as last year.

The action comes after preliminary results showed only about a third of students would pass the test this year. That would have been down from 80% or better on last year's writing portion of the FCAT.  

The dramatic decrease came after the test was made more difficult and the state board raised the passing grade to 4 on a scale of 0 to 6.

It's a change parents are scratching their heads over.
 
"I guess their trying to make adjustments to fix it?" says Mark Alsentzer.
 
"Why, why would kids get such a low score to begin with?" says Nancy Liscum.
 
The move will spare school districts from being penalized for the rock-bottom scores. Many parents don't think it's the right solution, they feel the test needs to be examined.
 
"They put too much emphasis on the test and not the skills a kid needs," says Liscum.
 
"The FCAT has flaws, maybe they're too focused on math and reading, and not writing," says Alsentzer.
 
Lynn University Professor Denise Belafonte-Young says lowering the standard isn't the way to go. She says already too often college freshmen need remedial help.
 
"The buck starts in these lower grades of what kind of students they'll be on the college-level. We see the writing, punctuation first hand when they come to college," says Professor Belafonte-Young.
 
One Florida Board of Education Commissioner admitted he didn't explain the tougher grading guidelines for the test. Guidelines that could've been too harsh.
 
The lower standard will only be in place for one year. The Board hopes district officials will be better trained when it comes to the rigorous grading  elements now in place,  which emphasize spelling and grammar.
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