A lot of the recent news stories on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, including one I wrote recently, focused on the fact that scores on the writing FCAT were so poor—far below even the expectations of officials who predicted the scores would drop based on tougher standards—that the state board of education lowered the “cut score” retroactively to allow more students to pass the test.
Perhaps with that recent, sour memory in mind, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, told the Associated Press today that he wants to make sure Florida’s students aren’t over-tested. Not surprisingly given the writing FCAT debacle, Scott noted that the state got more parent complaints than usual this year about the FCAT.
While he couched his statement carefully by stressing that “parents and taxpayers expect measurement” of student performance to identify the best schools, Scott also said: “We have to have a good measurement system but we have to make sure we don’t have too much of it.”
He also said he expects the test to eventually change “a lot” and is having discussions with teachers and others about how the FCAT should change.
The news isn’t all bad when it comes to the FCAT. It’s only fair to point out, for example, an early June report from the state department of education that said students did somewhat better on the reading and writing FCAT in 2012 than in 2011, even when the 2012 tests’ tougher standards were applied retroactively to 2011 tests. For example, 59 percent of students in grades 4-8 in 2012 passed the FCAT reading exam, compared with 57 percent in 2011.
The FCAT also has a prominent defender in the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a nonprofit group based in Tallahassee that advances the education policies initiated by former governor Jeb Bush. (Bush used the FCAT as a major piece of his education policy.) In a series of statements debunking what it calls “misconceptions,” the foundation argued that despite the argument from some that tests like the FCAT take up too much school time, “FCAT tests take approximately two to three days out of the 180-day school year. That’s less than 2 percent of the school year spent on FCAT testing.”
But at the end of the day, there’s no way the scramble by the state board to shore up the writing FCAT situation brightened Scott’s day. Of course, he may just be giving a perfunctory wave to school advocates who don’t like standardized tests, and his remarks likely won’t raise hair on the heads of the Foundation for Florida’s Future staff.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.