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Published in Print: May 24, 2006, as Fla. Senators to Get Data on Qualifications of Test Scorers

Fla. Senators to Get Data on Qualifications of Test Scorers

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Two Florida state senators have won Round 2 in their bout with the nation’s largest educational testing company and the state’s education department to learn the academic qualifications of temporary workers who score Florida’s high-stakes tests.

The lawmakers sued the test-maker and the agency last month after the senators’ initial requests for the information were rebuffed.

CTB/McGraw-Hill, the Monterey, Calif.-based company that has a three-year, $86.5 million contract with Florida, agreed on May 11 to release the educational credentials of some 2,500 temporary workers who score the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT.

As part of the agreement, however, the company will not have to divulge the names, addresses, or other personal information on the scorers.

CTB’s decision was in response to the lawsuit that Sen. Lesley “Les” Miller and Sen. Walter G. “Skip” Campbell Jr., both Democrats, filed April 24 in Leon County Circuit Court.

The company and the department defended their stand by arguing in written responses that the information was a “trade secret,” and that releasing it could jeopardize the workers’ safety.

The lawmakers justified their request by saying that the graders’ names are public records.

They also had questions about whether the workers were qualified to score the high-stakes tests, asserting that the temporary scorers should have education-related degrees or teaching experience, not just any bachelor’s degree.

About 1.7 million students a year in grades 3-11 take the FCAT. The results are used to grade school performance, determine whether students are promoted to the next grade, and, in the future, will be used to help determine teachers’ salaries.

“With such high stakes resting on just one test, accountability is important,” Sen. Campbell said in a statement. “It shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to pry open those files.”

Lawsuit Dropped

The senators dropped their lawsuit the same day CTB decided to release the information.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company and the education department do not admit to any violation of the state public-records law as alleged by the suit. Meanwhile, the lawmakers continue to maintain that the names of the FCAT scorers are public information, and consequently “not exempt from disclosure as trade secrets.”

CTB has until May 26 to deliver the workers’ academic credentials, such as college degrees and transcripts, to the lawmakers. The company will obtain the documents from two subcontractors: Kelly Services Inc. of Troy, Mich., and Measurement Inc. of Durham, N.C.

Kelly Services recruited scorers to grade the reading, mathematics, and science portions of the FCAT. The essay portion of the test is graded by workers recruited by Measurement Inc.

Officials from the Florida education department and CTB say the senators are too focused on the workers’ educational qualifications.

A bachelor’s degree, they say, is the base requirement to apply for a temporary scorer’s position. The workers must also undergo one week of intensive training and maintain consistent performance in scoring the tests.

“It’s very rigorous,” said Kelley L. Carpenter, the communications director for CTB.

“Under the FCAT contract, each essay is read by at least two scorers, and experienced supervisors constantly monitor them,” Ms. Carpenter said. “This is a practice used widely throughout the testing industry.”

Employing temporary workers is also a common practice. Florida has used them to score the FCAT for 10 years, said Cathy Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the state education agency.

“What matters is the scorers’ accuracy, reliability, and the validity of their scoring,” she said. “And the senators have unfortunately hinged on just whether or not they have a degree.”

But it’s not over till it’s over.

Sen. Campbell says that if he’s not satisfied with the information CTB gives them, he may propose legislation to raise test scorers’ requirements and require state workers to grade the tests. And according to Sen. Miller, further litigation may be taken if the lawmakers find the CTB information lacking.

Vol. 25, Issue 38, Page 25

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