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Days off may put delay on FCAT

Some school districts are given the option to defer the test because of worries the downtime could affect scores.

By MONIQUE FIELDS and RON MATUS
Published September 14, 2004

Schools across the Tampa Bay area are reopening today now that Hurricane Ivan appears to be moving away from Florida's west coast.

Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando and Citrus schools are welcoming back students, as are Catholic schools in the five-county area.

Pasco was the only local district to hold classes Monday. Its students have missed three days because of the recent storms, and the Pasco School Board is expected to talk tonight about how to make them up.

Pinellas students have lost four days to bad weather. No decision has been made yet about how or when they will be restored.

Meanwhile, state education officials say some school districts will be allowed to delay the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test if weather caused them to miss too many days.

Many districts are worried that all the hurricane down time will hamper student performance on the all-important FCAT, which can determine whether schools get extra money or face sanctions.

"We have to be flexible," said K-12 Chancellor Jim Warford.

Florida Department of Education officials have had discussions with many districts, and more details are expected to be worked out in a meeting with superintendents next week.

"A district that's missed three days, they need to be planning to make that up," Warford said. "A district that's missed three weeks? That's a different story."

Most Hillsborough schools have lost four days. Hernando schools have lost three, and Citrus schools have lost six.

The problem, Warford said, is balancing the testing wishes of harder-hit districts such as Charlotte, Hardee and DeSoto, with the company that administers the test, Pearson Educational Measurement.

Florida students are scheduled to take the FCAT in late February and early March. A long delay would force Pearson, which administers tests around the nation, to grade the FCAT during a peak period, possibly delaying results for weeks.

"April is the busiest time for testing in the entire nation," Warford said.

In past years, the state has received raw FCAT results in April and May.

Warford said it's possible but not likely - at least with Ivan yet to make landfall - that a late FCAT could postpone results until after the school year ends.

Such a scenario would complicate graduation ceremonies and summer reading camps.

High school seniors must pass the FCAT to graduate and third-graders must pass to be promoted to fourth grade.

[Last modified September 14, 2004, 00:34:11]


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