Recruitment & Retention

Qualifications Questioned

By Rhea R. Borja — April 25, 2006 1 min read

Two senators in the Sunshine State may sue the Florida education department if it doesn’t release the names and qualifications of $10-an-hour temporary workers who grade the state’s high-stakes tests.

Sen. Lesley “Les” Miller Jr. and Sen. Walter G. “Skip” Campbell Jr., both Democrats, gave the department until 5 p.m. on April 22 to give the information about the temporary workers who score portions of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. If the department refused, the two were “prepared to seek all legal remedies as provided by law,” according to an April 18 letter from the lawmakers.

The letter was the latest salvo in an escalating fight between the state lawmakers, who question the competence and fairness of the temporary workers, and the education department and the company that administers the test, CTB/McGraw-Hill. CTB is a subsidiary of the McGraw-Hill Cos., based in New York City, and subcontracts with Troy, Mich.-based Kelly Services Inc. to score the FCAT.

Florida has an $86.5 million, three-year contract with CTB to administer the FCAT. About 1.7 million Florida students each year take the tests, which are used to grade schools’ performance and to determine whether students are promoted to the next grade.

Both the Florida education department and CTB officials say that the information being requested by the senators is a “trade secret” and thus exempt from disclosure under the Florida Public Records Act. “Further, releasing the names to the public would subject scorers to potential intimidation and attempts to influence their work,” a CTB lawyer wrote to the department in an April 6 letter.

Florida has used temporary workers to score the FCAT for 10 years, Cathy Schroeder, an education department spokeswoman, said last week. “Nothing has changed,” she said, “but the picture has been painted that just because they’re temporary workers, they’re unprofessional, which is not true.”

All temporary workers who grade the FCAT must have a bachelor’s degree, and more than half are former educators, she said.

Ms. Schroeder said the department would not supply the information the lawmakers requested.

That’s not good enough, Sen. Miller says. He says test-graders should have a bachelor’s degree in education or experience in teaching. “You have to realize that this test is the ultimate determining factor in a child’s academic career,” he said.

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