Too tough? State ed board may lower passing grade after fewer students pass FCAT writing part

Lexey Swall/Staff
Third grade student Samantha Coveney, left, works to solve a math problem in preparation for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) at Bonita Springs Charter School on Friday. A report done by the Florida Department of Education shows that students in charter schools tend to score better on the FCAT than students in traditional public schools. Bonita Springs Charter School, an A+ school, is one of the best examples of the study.

Photo by LEXEY SWALL

Lexey Swall/Staff Third grade student Samantha Coveney, left, works to solve a math problem in preparation for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) at Bonita Springs Charter School on Friday. A report done by the Florida Department of Education shows that students in charter schools tend to score better on the FCAT than students in traditional public schools. Bonita Springs Charter School, an A+ school, is one of the best examples of the study.

— Preliminary results released Monday show a dramatic decline in FCAT writing scores statewide, prompting state education officials to schedule an emergency meeting today to consider reducing the passing grade.

Although individual district scores were not released, Collier Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton blamed this year’s plummeting scores on the state’s heavier emphasis on grammar and punctuation, a high number of Collier students learning the English language, and scoring methods that used an average by two test scorers.

“We need to continue to work and obviously the state needs to continue to work,” Patton said. “We have more English language-learners. We have more work to do. Everybody has to be part of the solution.”

Collier ranked eighth highest in the state for English language learners, just under Lee County schools, she said.

Preliminary results released by the state Department of Education show only 27 percent of 4th graders earned a passing score of 4 or better on a 6-point scale, compared with 81 percent last year. Only 33 percent of eighth graders passed, down from 82 percent, while 38 percent of 10th graders received a passing score, a drop from 80 percent.

Education officials made this year’s test more difficult, increasing standards for punctuation, capitalization, spelling and sentence structure, as well as the quality of details used to explain, clarify or define. The pool of test takers also was expanded to include lower performing students and tests were graded by two reviewers — not one, as the state did 2011.

“If two people score, it’s going to be drastically different,” Patton said.

To improve writing skills, Collier students were encouraged to write freely and express their thoughts, she said. But that teaching method is the opposite of the FCAT’s focus on capitalization, grammar and punctuation.

Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Bonita Springs Charter School, didn’t want to comment until individual school scores are released. However, state education officials last month disclosed that most charter school students consistently outperformed their public school peers in nearly every subject.

The State Board of Education now must determine what to do with the scores, which are used to grade individual schools. Failing schools are required to add remedial programs, which are costly in already tight budget times.

“Based on preliminary results of the 2012 writing assessment, applying the 4.0 threshold in addition to the heightened scoring rules may have unforeseen adverse impacts upon school grades, warranting emergency review by the State Board of Education,” the department wrote, recommending an emergency meeting today to discuss a plan of action.

In the short term, the board suggested lowering the passing threshold from 4.0 to 3.5, which would dramatically increase passing scores. However, it still would be significantly less than 2011 scores.

Under the lower standards, 48 percent of fourth graders, 52 percent of eighth graders and 60 percent of 10th graders would have passed. But that’s still at least 20 points lower than last year’s scores.

Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow said the dramatically lower scores point to the shortfalls of relying on such high-stakes tests for funding and student assessment.

“There have been a lot of parents over the years who have been unhappy with the assessments,” Pudlow said. “Hopefully this will give us a real opportunity to see how we should evaluate students and evaluate teachers”

FundEducationNow.org, an advocacy group, condemned the state education bureaucracy, saying the swing in grades shows the FCAT is a “multimillion dollar sham.”

A 2007 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, “To Read or Not to Read, A Question of National Consequence,” found that frequent readers scored better on writing tests than non readers or infrequent readers and that Americans ages 15 to 24 spent almost two hours daily watching TV, but only seven minutes of daily leisure time reading.

Employers ranked reading and writing skills as top deficiencies in new hires, the study found, noting large corporate employers spent roughly $31 million to provide remedial writing courses, while state employers spent $221 million. The Internet also is partly to blame for a drop in reading for pleasure, according to a U.S. Department of Education study, which found 22 percent of 17-year-olds and 30 percent of 13-year-olds read “almost every day for fun” — online or in print — a significant drop from 20 years earlier.

The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 70

cornandbeans writes:

ROFLMAO

cabagepalm writes:

Some one should be flogged. How dare they expect a child to read. It's just the fourth grade.

ljfroloff writes:

Apparently YOU can't read. The entire article is about WRITING. Hilarious.

collier34 writes:

My fourth grader said they were asked to write about a camel??? REALLY- what background knowledge do our kiddos have about camels???

thyman99 writes:

I wonder if we get enough 4th graders together they could write a great Shakespeare novel about camels....

DeweyCox writes:

Ah liberalism! Lower the standards. Dumb down the masses...........

CarpeVeritas writes:

in response to firedragon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

In taking a tough stand on children learning to communicate in English, you say:

"This here if allowed will allow students who don't deserve passing to do so !"

I give up. Been working on it for a while.

cons3rvative writes:

in response to DeweyCox:

Ah liberalism! Lower the standards. Dumb down the masses...........

gerald robinson is as conservative as they come....typical uneducated tea bag

dwyerj1 writes:

I'd walk a mile for a Camel.

It ain't liberalism to lower the standards. It's the American Way.

We don't need no education.

meeho42794 writes:

the dumbing down of America

staghorn writes:

The GOP has a long history of underfunding and/or neglecting education. And it's for a reason: the less educated the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican. That's why so many middle or lower-middle class whites vote against their own economic interests. They fall for the flag-waving, bible-thumping distortion of the groups funded by the tycoons who will forever abuse them. It's a fact as old as our democracy

mr_1_term_proposition writes:

Obama and his clown posse need the dumbest kids voting for him through acorn. Its the only way he can secure a win.

McLady writes:

If ten people can jump over a hurdle in a race, and then the hurdle is raised five inches, would it surprise anyone that all ten people could not make it over the higher hurdle?
When the stakes are raised, fewer will pass. Whatever else one might say in reaction to the drop in passing rate, no one should assume this is an apples to apples comparison.

BlOoDrEd66 writes:

in response to ljfroloff:

Apparently YOU can't read. The entire article is about WRITING. Hilarious.

Tuna...that's hilarious

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

in response to dwyerj1:

I'd walk a mile for a Camel.

It ain't liberalism to lower the standards. It's the American Way.

We don't need no education.

AAmerica is the prolem!

I'm thinking that we need a meeting of the local superintendents and come up with a plan to let the teachers teach.

Maybe Las Veas or San Franchickso, eh?

Big doings at twice the price!

Better yet have them meet in a school cafeteria and get to WORK!

See Jayne spot and see Dick run?

ducksinarow writes:

It's time to ask: Who benefits from all this testing? Follow the money trail. The biggest piece of pie in any states budget is for education. There has been a systematic grab for these monies but "educational" corporations. Who makes the tests? Who scores the tests? How much does it cost? Is it really about fostering a better education? I have my doubts.

blueblueblue writes:

in response to ISPEAKFORGOD:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You must have been born at the South Pole.

blueblueblue writes:

OOOOoooops, SORRY, puckdog, you got there first!
Great minds think alike!

staghorn writes:

Evidence that Bush family profits from Florida education
Herald-Tribune (October 28, 2002) via AP:

Bush brother tries to sell FCAT software in Florida

A software company run by Neil Bush, a younger brother of Gov. Jeb Bush, hopes to sell a program to Florida schools that students would use to prepare for the test that is key to the governor's education policy.

Texas-based Ignite Inc. makes software being used in a pilot program at an Orlando-area middle school to help students prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which the governor has championed as a yardstick for school performance.

Ocoee Middle School, which has received millions of dollars in state grants to study ways of lowering costs, is using the software for free.

But a company spokeswoman said Saturday that Ignite soon hopes to sell its early American history course to other Florida schools, at a cost of $30 a year per student.

Ignite spokeswoman Louise Thacker denied the company had an unfair advantage because its founder and CEO, Neil Bush, is a brother of Florida's governor

staghorn writes:

Then in 2005

Here's a little more info on Neil's profiteering down in Florida: Governor's Brother Marketing School Software (FlaNews.com):

Some politicians are questioning whether Governor Jeb Bush's brother Neil is trying to use the FCAT to make a buck. Neil Bush founded a company that provides software to help students take standardized tests. Critics say it doesn't look right for Neil Bush to be marketing his software to Florida schools.

Ignite, Incorporated makes computer software to help children prepare for standardized tests like florida's FCAT. Students at an Orlando-area middle school are using the software as part of a pilot program. Founder Neil Bush is the brother of Governor Jeb and President George Bush.

The arrangements is raising eyebrows at the state Democratic Party. Spokesman Ryan Banfill says having one brother selling something to help students on a test spearheaded by another brother and sanctioned by the president doesn't look good. "We think that there's an appearance of impropriety here," Banfill said. "We think that in the name of all that's good and ethical, that maybe Neil Bush should step back and not try to make money off of Florida's FCAT."

republicans, you just can't trust them!

Klaatu writes:

in response to DeweyCox:

Ah liberalism! Lower the standards. Dumb down the masses...........

That's right blame the liberals in a Republican controlled State?
You're truly a moron !!!
They must of had to lower the bar for you!

The GOP has been in the Majority in the State of Floriduh for the past 16+ yrs. Every year the schools decline!
Yet you pass the buck!
This is their problem the GOP created it, they own it, and they have no solution to fix it !
Except lower the bar and of course shift the blame !
You've got the Government you voted for and the school system you deserve!

starvingartist writes:

It would seem that the NEA bears some responsibility for the failure of our children.

almasonlybar writes:

in response to staghorn:

The GOP has a long history of underfunding and/or neglecting education. And it's for a reason: the less educated the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican. That's why so many middle or lower-middle class whites vote against their own economic interests. They fall for the flag-waving, bible-thumping distortion of the groups funded by the tycoons who will forever abuse them. It's a fact as old as our democracy

I bet you have at least 30 stray cats at your house, huh?!

terri156 writes:

If I were asked to plan, write, edit, and revise a five paragraph essay, I think that I would like a bit more than a 45 minute test period in order to do my best work! Especially when I need to include figurative and sensory language, have an organizational plan, a lead that draws the reader in, and a snappy conclusion!! After all, the best authors can take years to write their masterpieces and edit and revise many times. Forty-five minutes? Seriously?

SunStar writes:

No wonder Florida students perform poorly at national level and could not get into ivy league institutes! State is going to pass everybody so that state & school board officials get the raise and bonus. What a joke?

beerbong writes:

Do away with FCAT. Get back to the basics. Too much emphasis on FCAT.

BigOrangeKitty writes:

Even with the dumbed-down test, the scores STILL would've been dismal -- at best, only 60 percent of 10th graders would've passed. This is inexcusable.

It sounds like Patton is placing the blame on having so many ESL students. That's probably part of the problem, but I think there's more to it than that.

If it's true that major corporations and state employers are spending millions of dollars on remedial writing classes for their new hires, then it sounds like kids are being allowed to get away with poor writing right through college. Shameful.

BigOrangeKitty writes:

in response to terri156:

If I were asked to plan, write, edit, and revise a five paragraph essay, I think that I would like a bit more than a 45 minute test period in order to do my best work! Especially when I need to include figurative and sensory language, have an organizational plan, a lead that draws the reader in, and a snappy conclusion!! After all, the best authors can take years to write their masterpieces and edit and revise many times. Forty-five minutes? Seriously?

These kids should be writing so many essays that it becomes second nature to them. If you focus, think clearly, and know what you're doing, 45 minutes is definitely doable.

Frankly2 writes:

The bar should not be lowered. This was about punctuation and grammar! When I read articles it makes me insane how badly they are written. Let's re-enforce these basic skills. (yes I am aware I have a run on sentence problem, but at least I am aware of it!)

Bramble writes:

Oh forget the tests. Let's just focus on providing free breakfasts, lunches, babysitting, and anti-bullying campaigns. Oh, and let's not forget about their compulsory community service. Those nonprofits love the fee forced labor.

MisterK writes:

We need a realistic approach to public education.

stella877 writes:

The acedemic light bulb was a wattage lower than anticipated and the state had to reset the bulb so it didn't look dimmer from the outside looking in. It happens........

scubatenor writes:

in response to DeweyCox:

Ah liberalism! Lower the standards. Dumb down the masses...........

You're kidding, right? Liberalism wants to lower the standards? This directive smells of the Tallahassee two-step, which is a very conservative place.

unfatcat writes:

in response to collier34:

My fourth grader said they were asked to write about a camel??? REALLY- what background knowledge do our kiddos have about camels???

Love your post. LOL. It reminds me of the advertisement on TV that I saw a few weeks ago for a movie called "Salmon Fishing in Yemen," (Really! It's supposed to be about a boy who wants fishing tournaments in Yemen. LOL)

Here4Now writes:

Don't worry folks - Edison College will be more than happy to accept your Florida-educated offspring!

You want your child to have a fighting chance in the real world (ie outside Floridum)- enroll them in private school, Florida Virtual School, or pack up and move outta here - follow the North Star.

CarpeVeritas writes:

A comprehensive test of several years' education is meant to do several things.

It can measure a population's median, median, mode -- averages of correct scores. Statistics are cold, definitive, crisp, logical.

It purports to measure satisfactory achievement. How one scores what to score is subjective. A missed period is worse, better, or the same as no comma setting off an interjection?

You can jigger the subjective evaluation any way you choose. Language comprehension cannot be measured like mathematics. Math is easy to score-- correct or incorrect.

You add students with just a year of English language, and you decide to make the test harder to pass, guess what?

All you prove is that this test is more difficult than the previous test. I could create a grading system whereby ALL students fail. It will only demonstrate that my test was useless; it doesn't evaluate anything.

unfatcat writes:

in response to scubatenor:

You're kidding, right? Liberalism wants to lower the standards? This directive smells of the Tallahassee two-step, which is a very conservative place.

Actually, Dewey might have said "ah Progressive-- FORWARD!" instead and been accurate. The theory being everyone passes, no one is smarter, works harder, deserves more or less; we are all equal now. We all get A's or F's; and just because U.S. students are currently #47 in the world of children's knowledge today doesn't mean we should get any less than A's for grades. Hey, maybe they should even celebrate.

Notthesame writes:

What fourth grader doesnt know what a camel is, the problem isnt the testing its the teaching and the learning. If a child can barely speak the language (english) how well do you think they will be able to write it.

naplesnative73 writes:

in response to ISPEAKFORGOD:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Theory is when we think we know everything, BUT NOTHING WORK

Practice is when we everything work, BUT WE DON'T KNOW WHY

Your brain is the combination of both: your brain is NOT WORKING and we DON'T KNOW WHY

So, we think You have a " theory practice brain" syndrome

sweetsister writes:

I thought Patton's Claming to be a great communicator would not let this happen. At least this is what she was professing when these clowns called school board members hired her.

Therealist writes:

Kids in private schools don't take FCAT tests and still go on to college.

It's an arbitrary method of comparison that really isn't accurate in any sense to begin with.

I say to hell with the FCAT.

Colorado (Inactive) writes:

in response to DeweyCox:

Ah liberalism! Lower the standards. Dumb down the masses...........

I believe you have been duped by Fox News. It's the Liberals who champion education unlike the republicans who discourage it. Example: "Everybody going to college? What snobbery!". Ring a bell?

garyOfTheGulf writes:

What a great idea "Lower the Standards"!! Why not increase the school day and bring the students up to grade? DUH!!!!

Quietcat writes:

in response to staghorn:

Evidence that Bush family profits from Florida education
Herald-Tribune (October 28, 2002) via AP:

Bush brother tries to sell FCAT software in Florida

A software company run by Neil Bush, a younger brother of Gov. Jeb Bush, hopes to sell a program to Florida schools that students would use to prepare for the test that is key to the governor's education policy.

Texas-based Ignite Inc. makes software being used in a pilot program at an Orlando-area middle school to help students prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which the governor has championed as a yardstick for school performance.

Ocoee Middle School, which has received millions of dollars in state grants to study ways of lowering costs, is using the software for free.

But a company spokeswoman said Saturday that Ignite soon hopes to sell its early American history course to other Florida schools, at a cost of $30 a year per student.

Ignite spokeswoman Louise Thacker denied the company had an unfair advantage because its founder and CEO, Neil Bush, is a brother of Florida's governor

Oh, of course... low scores are, wait for it: Bush's Fault!

Is there ANY negative that's NOT Bush's fault?

leneggs writes:

in response to DeweyCox:

Ah liberalism! Lower the standards. Dumb down the masses...........

Liberalism....really? Just in case you didn't realize this, Florida is a REPUBLICAN state run by REPUBLICANS. Especially in Lee and Collier counties. Also, let us not forget about are great REPUBLICAN governor.

flamom73 writes:

We've brought the third world in now we're going down to third world standards.

toadisland writes:

in response to staghorn:

The GOP has a long history of underfunding and/or neglecting education. And it's for a reason: the less educated the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican. That's why so many middle or lower-middle class whites vote against their own economic interests. They fall for the flag-waving, bible-thumping distortion of the groups funded by the tycoons who will forever abuse them. It's a fact as old as our democracy

IMEO, it's the people that can't read that vote for the socialist spendthrift government and administrators.

jjspaz1 writes:

in response to DeweyCox:

Ah liberalism! Lower the standards. Dumb down the masses...........

I actually know more non-liberal people who agree to "dumb down the test" than I do Liberals. (I'm not a democrate and I still find this to be true) When I asked why? The response was "we have to make ourselves look good, so if we dumb it down, they will pass and we will look good." I find this sick. Poor kids.

GATORBAIT writes:

I wonder how many of you actually have kids in the Collier county school system. I have been very pleased with the education received by my elementary age children. I have yet to meet one individual employed by the system that doesn't seem to care a great deal about our kid's success. My children were in private school before our economic situtation forced a move to public schools. I honestly feel the product delivered by our public schools is on par with the private Catholic education my kids were receiving. In my opinion the FCAT is misguided. So many people are interested in weeding out underperforming teachers and the result is teachers are now forced to teach students on how to take a standardized test. Education is like everything else in life, you get out of it what you put in. Parents need to help their kids with their homework and be engaged in the learning process.

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