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Official Statement of FCAT Writing Exam (debacle)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: DOE PRESS OFFICE
TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2012 (850) 245-0413

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ADOPTS
FCAT WRITING PERFORMANCE LEVEL STANDARD

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida State Board of Education today adopted a new performance level standard for FCAT Writing. The performance level standard used for the purpose of calculating school grades for the 2011-12 school year will be a 3.0 on a scale of 6.0.

Today’s action was a result of reviewing preliminary scores that indicated significantly lower student performance based on an increased focus on writing conventions, such as grammar, and the quality of details provided as support when writing an essay. In reviewing the preliminary results, Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson recognized the considerable variance and brought it to the attention of the board.

On May 10 when the final FCAT Writing results became available to the Department of Education, the State Board of Education decided to hold an emergency meeting to consider how to move forward with calculating school grades for this year. While at the state level the State Board of Education does not set FCAT Writing grade level or passing standards for students, writing scores are factored into school grades and families may make school choice decisions based on school grades during the summer months.

“The strength of Florida’s economy and our children’s futures depend on our ability to prepare all students for success after high school, in college, in the workplace, and in life,” said Commissioner Gerard Robinson. “Florida’s children do not know less than before. Rather, we’ve raised our standards and expectations. Today, we are asking more of our children and more of our teachers than we ever have. It’s clear in that we must do a better job of communicating student expectations to educators and parents so they can better prepare students to be successful.”

The sequence of events that led to today’s vote follows:

· In spring 2010 the Florida legislature required that the Florida school grade writing standard be a score a student can earn.
· In May 2011, on the recommendation of a previous Commissioner of Education the State Board of Education set the school grade standard for FCAT Writing at 4.0 up from 3.5 since there was only one scorer and it was not possible to earn a half point.
· The State Board asked that the legislative budget request include a return to two scorers for each essay, which was implemented in 2012.
· In July 2011, school districts were notified of a change in the scoring of FCAT Writing for school year 2012 regarding the correct use of standard English conventions and the quality of details provided as support. The Department also posted sample writing papers illustrating the change in expectations and in August 2011 posted scoring guides for school district use at http://www.fldoe.org/arm.

As the Department of Education continues to review 2012 assessment results, the State Board of Education will look at additional data and information related to the calculation of school grades.