Desperately Seeking the New FCAT

In Anastasia Dawson’s Tampa Tribune story from one week ago:

Leaders from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and the Florida School Board Association voted Thursday to lobby state legislators for a three-year extension before the Common Core State Standards have to be fully implemented into every classroom. The new standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, are supposed to be in place by next school year. They rely heavily on new technology and have higher expectations for students after each grade level.

The educators who are meeting this week heard Thursday about how to take the next steps with Common Core, which, among other changes, expects third-graders to read at a fifth-grade level and fifth-graders at an eighth-grade level. Kindergarten, first-graders and second-graders already have been exposed to Common Core instruction as it slowly has been introduced into classrooms during the past few years.

“We’ve been following this for years and are ready to go,” Polk County School Board member Hunt Berryman said. “I think the only concerns we have now are with the testing, but that may be a bit overblown and it’s a bit too late to back out. … There’s a lot of fear and anxiety about launching right now because this is something completely new.”

Many concerns about how to evaluate students were answered in November when Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced that students this year would not be required to take the tech-heavy, Common Core-aligned standardized test created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Gov. Rick Scott favors creating a “Florida model” of standardized testing.

A State Department of Education study shows that no school district has the technological infrastructure to support the volume of computers and other online resources needed for each student to take the PARCC test. School districts are skeptical that all the pieces necessary to make the Common Core transition successful will fall into place on time, Pinellas County Superintendent Michael Grego said.

“There are far too many unanswered questions about how all these assessments, which have not been field tested, are going to be tied to teacher assessments or are going to be a true measure of what our students are achieving,” Grego said. “We still don’t have textbooks that are consistent with the Common Core in all grade levels and, to me, that’s a major issue. That’s going to dictate the success of Florida’s accountability system in the future, and if we’re going to do this we need to do this right.”

The slew of opinion pieces from Common Core supporters that have appeared on the state’s editorial pages never mention the high-stakes testing regime that Common Core requires. It’s all about the “skills” needed for a “global economy” you see. Scott and Stewart, no dummies, saved Floridians from an ultimate testing nightmare by pulling away from PARCC. They know it was a disaster in New York. This from Andrew Ujifusa in Education Week:

Test scores in New York state, its first under tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and math, show sharp declines in student performance in grades 3-8 for the 2012-13 school year, as officials try to assure parents that the new scores don’t reflect a major drop in students’ academic understanding, just tougher performance standards.

Statewide, the statewide ELA proficiency rates dropped from 55.1 percent on the non-common-core-aligned exams from the 2011-12 school year, to 31.1 percent in the 2012-13 school year. In math, the proficiency rates declined from 64.8 percent to 31 percent. There are significant achievement gaps between the state figures for all students and subgroups: Only 16.1 percent of black students scored proficient on the ELA exam, for example, compared to 39.9 percent of white students, while 17.7 percent of Hispanics in New York state did so.

These exams are not the “common assessments” that are being developed by two multi-state consortia—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the consortium to which New York state belongs, won’t roll out the final versions of those tests until the 2014-15 school year. The scores released today were on tests developed by Pearson.

What a wail of outrage that would have produced: Jeb Bush’s tests from Tony Bennett’s PARCC brought to you by Pearson.

The Education…Education of Rick Scott has been a work in progress. The ideology he was intoxicated with when he became governor has sobered under the reality of well, governing. But the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the SB 736 teacher evaluation/merit pay cocktail is still on him. And he’ll have to sell some sort of new FCAT  to Floridians in an election year.




About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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