Robinson defends FCAT writing exam

Education Commissioner Gerald Robinson held a press conference this afternoon and allowed reporters from around the state to question him about the Florida Board of Education’s decision earlier in the day to drop the standard for passing the writing exam from a 4 to a 3 –on a scale of 1 to 6.

I pointedly asked Robinson if the board had rolled out the new standards and rigors too quickly without giving teachers and districts sufficient time to adjust their lesson plans. He disagreed but did admit that FDOE could do a better job of professional development. Robinson said that the state did a poor job of communicating the new standards and requirements and should have had more follow up with the districts. He pledged to do things differently but wasn’t clear how that would be done.

Robinson defended his board’s vote, telling the reporters that it didn’t lower the standards, but merely lowered the bar for measuring its impact on how the writing scores are used to evaluate the schools.

Reporters pointed out that in the 2011 FCAT gave students 45 minutes to finish a writing draft. For 2012, the students had to produce in the same time a finished writing product that was graded on spelling, punctuation and grammar. Robinson said that the state is looking into granting more time for the writing exam next year.

Robinson said that school grades are scheduled to be released in mid-July, but his department is working hard to get them out in late June. He predicted that many people will be surprised at how the new standards in reading and math will impact school grades.

“People are going to say ‘Wow, why didn’t someone tell us about this?'” said Robinson.

I asked the commissioner what was the one lesson that he learned from this.

“Communication,” said Robinson. “Just because we are communication through the channels that we believe are most appropriate, doesn’t mean it is being funneled down to the people who need it most.”