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State decides not to raise FCAT bar to higher standards

The Florida Board of Education chooses not to change achievement standards, though state rules call for changes.

Published November 19, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Florida students will face higher testing standards at some point, but not this school year.

A divided Florida Board of Education decided Tuesday to leave the standards where they are for now, despite a state rule that calls for adjustments this year. The lone dissenting vote was board member Charles Garcia, who called Tuesday's vote "the low point of my tenure on the board."

"Now is the time to raise the standards," Garcia said, likening low-performing schools and students to sick patients.

"If you have a sick patient," he said, "it's imperative that we bring the treatment to them."

The debate over when to raise standards - especially heading into an election year - brought out all the fundamental arguments over high-stakes testing.

Board member Linda Eads said she wants to see standards raised, but worried that "sometimes you can go too fast, and that can have a devastating effect on morale."

Eads and board member William Proctor said they want to see the effects of some of the most recent changes before they raise standards again. Those changes include requiring third-graders to pass the FCAT reading section to earn promotion to fourth grade, and the use of the test to determine who graduates with a standard diploma.

"There is a need to let things settle a bit," said Education Commissioner Jim Horne. "Especially as it relates to the third grade."

This is what the board agreed to do:

The achievement levels for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test will remain unchanged.

Next school year, all students - including those with disabilities and limited English skills - will be included in the school grade calculations. Those changes are expected to lower grades for many schools, but a state study shows that 38 percent of Florida's D and F-rated schools would actually benefit from the change. Only 20 percent of A and B-rated schools would benefit.

The state standard for the writing test will be raised from 3.0 (on a scale from 1 to 6) to a 3.5 next school year. The standard will be raised to 4.0. in 2006-07. A 4.0 is the average writing score right now.

Also in 2006-07, science will be added to the school grading mix.

[Last modified November 19, 2003, 01:31:55]

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