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Who’s accountable for the FCAT tests?

Parent Comment: Folks it is time to opt out of the test. The lawmakers can not require your children to take tests. You CAN opt them out. Demand change.

Parent Comment: Yep, and the last month has been nothing but testing, testing, testing as there are not enough computers in the schools so schedules are completely disrupted for up to a month. The end of course tests are hardly at the END OF THE COURSE. The USA Test Prep website the high school students were directed to go to for practice on the biology EOC crashed continually and my daughter found three questions that scored the correct answer wrong. Those were printed and sent to school where they were verified as incorrect. I am sorry folks, but there is no need for the STATE to require an end of course test in every subject . If students are covering the material in school, and taking tests every chapter what more do we need to know? We are told we can't afford small classes, we are told we can't have block or flex scheduling, we are told we have to cut electives, and we are told EVERYBODY has to take science and math courses they may not want, need or be able to handle but we can pay Pearson gobs of money to lobby our legislature and take our public school money and test our students to death. Show me a private school who evaluates their students or teachers this way....they don't. Start standing up to school boards and politicians who do not have our kids best interest in mind when they legislate a diet of test prep and testing. Opt out of high stakes testing. Take away their data stream and revenue. Public schools answer to parents not to testing companies.

By Jennifer Smith

Who is Pearson accountable to?

The state of Florida is paying the testing company NCS Pearson $250 million to administer and score the FCAT through the end of 2013. That amount could buy a lot. But in the case of Pearson contracts, Florida seems to be getting ripped off.

Students can be retained in third grade if they don't pass their FCAT. They will be denied high school graduation if they donât pass their FCAT. For the first time ever, 50 percent of teachersâ evaluations will be based on student FCAT scores. Two out of three negative (or two negative in a row) mean the unemployment line. As of 2014, the scores will also determine pay. Schools will, as always, be assigned a letter grade based on student FCAT performance â only now the test is harder and the proficiency scores are higher, meaning hundreds of schools in Miami-Dade County alone expect to drop as much as two letter grades.

Itâs supposed to be a secure test, but The Herald recently exposed that the tenth grade FCAT reading tests use the same passages and questions throughout the âtesting window,â which is as long as two weeks: The test has moved online and most high schools do not have enough computers to administer the test to all tenth graders on the same day.

When students leave the test, they can tell their friends (or post on Twitter) the titles of the passages in the test, giving students those in the second or third testing group a great advantage.

They can also report back to classmates what vocabulary words they will be asked about, or what background knowledge they will be expected to know.

The remedy? The Florida Department of Education has made students sign a pledge this year not to talk about the content of the test or share test information with anyone.

SB 736 mandates a standardized test for every subject taught by every school in the state by 2014.

These are the infamous new âend-of-course exams,â better known as EOCs, and NCS Pearson has the lucrative contract.

Naturally, these new EOCs are all computer-based as well .â.â. contributing to the two-month testing calendar at many high schools lacking sufficient computers.

The testing windows for the EOCs are just as long as those for the FCAT reading â meaning the possibility of cheating by reporting content is just as strong, making the tests just as invalid.

The test questions are harder. (And some are misleading or just wrong, too.)

Robert Krampf, a science blogger, checked out the FLDOEâs FCAT Science Test Item Specifications as he made FCAT practice questions to help students review for the test. He found that some definitions listed in the specifications were flat-out wrong. He also found multiple-choice questions where some of the âwrong answersâ were scientifically correct answers.

The response of the FLDOE? Fifth grade students would not be expected to know enough science beyond the benchmarks to know that the scientifically correct âwrongâ answers were actually, well, correct.

In other words, children â and their teachers â could be penalized for knowing too much.

Problems with the test questions cannot be reported by teachers, as they are not allowed to see the test.

When confused students alert their test proctors that the right answer is not among the answer choices provided, even if the teacher ascertains that this is indeed fact, he can do nothing about this situation, because by law he is not allowed to see the test or assist students taking the test in any way.

Thus, wrong questions with wrong answers pass by in silence, and can determine whether students advance to the next grade level, get credit for a class, or graduate from high school.

And the results of those students will determine which teachers keep or lose their jobs, and which teachers are eligible or not for a raise.

For the honor, Pearson will take your money, thank you very much.

In the Age of Accountability, the only ones not accountable for anything, apparently, are the testing giants who have lobbied hard for the âaccountabilityâ legislation.

They are accountable only to their shareholders.

Jennifer Smith is a teacher, United Teachers of Dade-designated building steward at Hialeah High School, and co-chair of the Legislative Relations Committee at UTD.

— Jennifer Smith
Miami Herald





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