Published Online: March 28, 2006
Published in Print: March 29, 2006, as Temps Tempest

State Journal

Temps Tempest

Critics blast use of temporary workers to grade Florida exams.

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Florida’s hiring of temporary workers to grade the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, or FCAT, is under fire.

At issue is a testing contractor’s use of workers from Troy, Mich.-based Kelly Services to grade certain portions of the FCAT.

“What I’ve heard from teachers is that they are demoralized,” said Rep. Shelley Vana, a Democrat on the House education committee and a former president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association. Ms. Vana is also a curriculum coordinator for the 180,000-student Palm Beach County school district.

The situation raises new questions about the FCAT with those lawmakers already skeptical of the test, Ms. Vana said.

Monterey-Calif.-based CTB/McGraw-Hill is under contract with the state to administer the test.

In an e-mail last week CTB spokeswoman Kelley Carpenter wrote, “Kelly Services has a long-standing relationship with CTB as its recruiting arm for professional evaluators.”

A state education department spokeswoman, Cathy Schroeder, said that temporary employees have always been hired to grade the exams. But this year, she said, Kelly Services ran an ad for the scorers that contained the phrase “no experience required,” which garnered media attention.

The FCAT contains sections on reading, writing, mathematics, and science. Multiple-choice questions are scored by a machine, while human graders evaluate essay responses and math problems in which points are awarded for the process as well as the answer.

Students’ grades on the FCAT determine whether they advance to the next grade or receive a high school diploma.

CTB scores standardized achievement tests in 22 states, Ms. Carpenter said. She also wrote that testing companies employ qualified temporary employees to grade responses in “nearly all states.”

State officials say the outcry stems from misunderstanding.

“More than half of the people we hire are former educators,” said Ms. Schroeder, the education department spokeswoman. She said all graders must have a bachelor’s degree, and that they are assigned to grade portions of the test that correspond best to their areas of expertise. She also said they receive weeklong training and must score practice essays correctly in order to grade real exams. Each exam is graded twice, and if there are discrepancies between the scores, a supervisor grades it.

Vol. 25, Issue 29, Page 30

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