Florida Education Commissioner, Board Grapple With FSA Scores


Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has released her recommendations on what passing grades should be for the state’s new standardized tests. The State Board of Education is expected to vote on her recommendations in January, but several board members have already recommended tougher passing scores.

Stewart, however, believes that scores should be set to guarantee that most grade levels would receive a passing grade on the tests. If adopted, her recommendations would mean that 51% of 10th graders would pass the test, which is a requirement for graduation.

The Associated Press reports that the standardized tests assess reading, math, and end-of-course exams in Algebra and Geometry. This was the first year that Florida used the tests that are linked to standards based on Common Core.

“We want Florida students to get the skills they need to be competitive in the global economy. The scoring recommendations were developed with teachers, parents, state board members, superintendents, higher education representatives, Florida’s business community and the public. These recommendations are in line with the performance we should expect from our state’s students at each grade level for each subject in order to prepare today’s students for future success,” said Commissioner Stewart.

Stewart explained that the tests are important, but are not the only determinant for student promotion or graduation. Decisions have already been made by districts concerning promotions using standard procedures for those students who took the test in the spring of 2015.

The Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) passing score recommendations are used to determine if students have learned what they are expected to know at every grade level. When a new instrument is used, the department goes through a comprehensive process to determine passing scores. These scores become a barometer of the knowledge students have accrued and a guide to assist students, educators, and parents to make adjustments for improvement when necessary.

The battle is between the Florida Board of Education, which has called for tougher passing grades, and superintendents who are looking for measures that do not perpetuate failure, writes Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times. The commissioner’s proposal would allow over half of students to earn a Level 3 or higher on all math and language arts tests except eighth-grade math and Algebra 2.

The commissioner would be asking to cut some math scores lower than what was recommended by a panel of experts, by lowering the Level 5 required in seventh and eighth grade math to Level 2, but increasing the score used to earn a Level 4. Stewart recommended a Level 5 score in third through fifth grades that is 3 points higher than the advisory panel’s recommendation.

The scoring plan used previously on the FCAT was based on a five-level system with a 3 considered passing, writes Leslie Postal for the Orlando Sentinel. Stewart has announced that the preliminary FSA scores will be available on the Florida Department of Education website this week.

The FSA was criticized by parents and educators alike because of technology problems during the testing last spring and concerns over the fact that teachers did not have adequate time to prepare students for the more rigorous new exams.

Stephanie Garcia, reporting for WKMG-TV Orlando, quoted Stewart as stating that districts can disregard test scores when it comes to graduation or placement decisions, but the assessment can be used for school grades and teacher evaluations.

09 30, 2015