Passing rates for the writing portion of the FCAT plummeted over the last year. Fourth grade passing rates fell from 81 percent last year to 27 percent this year. A score of 4.0 out of 6.0 is a passing grade. These results were reflected in 8th and 10th grade writing scores as well.
Governor Scott weighed in with this powerful delegation of responsibility:
The significant contrast in this year’s writing scores is an obvious indication that the Department of Education needs to review the issue and recommend an action plan so that our schools, parents, teachers and students have a clear understanding of the results.
The education comissioner fired back in kind by suggesting dropping passing standards from 4.0 to 3.5…
Under that standard, 48 percent of fourth-graders would have passed the test with a 3.5 or better, along with 52 percent of eighth-graders and 60 percent of 10th-graders
At this point, the level of despair and cynicism welled up within both parties and they pulled open that special desk drawer containing a loaded handgun, wherein they stared lovingly at the sleek gun metal and considered their ownership of cuts to state education and the immediate repercussions regarding said cuts, which coupled with lowering standards to ultimately pass only about half of students spelled out clearly that Florida failed hard at attempts to raise standards while cutting funding and paying only lip service to meaningful efforts to raise Florida out of the dregs of the educational swamp shared by the likes of Lousiana or Mississippi. Floridians know well what it means to teach to the test. It means whole sections of normal classwork are abandoned specifically to teach what it takes to pass the FCAT. If, at the end of abandoning useful, non-test specific, liberal arts, science and mathematics education in order to pass the FCAT yields only a 27 percent passing rate…
Welcome to Florida.
How scoring changed
Scoring of the FCAT 2.0 Writing test was tougher this year:
• Two scorers evaluated each test, something the state had eliminated as a cost-saving measure.
• Scoring was more stringent on basics of standard English such as punctuation and grammar.
• More attention was paid to the quality of details, word choice, specificity, relevance and thoroughness. Bad: Rote memorization or overuse of techniques like rhetorical questions.
• How often a student misspelled commonly used words had more impact than if a student took a risk by misspelling a word not commonly used at his grade level. Ex: a fourth-grader who spells misspells rhinoceros.