Setting FSA cut scores: high or low, it’s about politics, not kids


Lower FSA cut scores recommended by Commissioner Pam Stewart have the effect of repeating the school grades issued in 2013-14, FCAT’s last year. That means there will be roughly the same As and the same Fs.  Certain members of the Board of Education such as John Padget and Gary Chartrand along with lobbyists for Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries are ardently opposed to anything less than setting the harshest of cut scores, causing a startling spike in so-called “failing schools.”

Both Stewart and the Florida Board of Education continue to ignore the point that the FSA is a flawed, unproven test that cannot be used to determine any gains whatsoever. The more we hear from the Florida Board of Education and school “reformers,” the more it’s apparent that their real goal is to use cut scores to drive a significant increase in D and F schools.  Parents and educators have it right. It makes no sense to use the FSA and its flawed data to measure or grade anyone. The controversial cut scores will be voted on at the January 6th Board of Education meeting.

The Tampa Bay Times recently wrote this about Stewart’s cut score recommendations:


Using her proposed definitions, which superintendents and other groups have backed, Stewart presented a picture that’s not nearly as negative as many observers have anticipated.

In her model, 1,159 schools would earn A’s, and 627 would receive B’s. On the other end, 875 would get C’s, 364 would make D’s and 189 would rate F. Those numbers match up closely with 2013-14 grades, which department officials noted are not good comparisons because they are based on different tests, standards, scores and rules.

Many groups have, in fact, opposed the release of any grades at all this year because of the differences, most prominently the lack of student academic gains data. Because the grades are based primarily on proficiency, many of the lowest performing schools align closely with the areas of most poverty.

“Any grades released this year can’t be valid, because there’s no baseline data,” said Linda Cobbe, Pasco schools spokeswoman. “We’re not going to celebrate A’s, and we’re not going to mourn F’s.”

Department leaders and lawmakers have insisted on moving ahead with school grades nonetheless. They did remove some, but not all, of the consequences attached to the results.

“Reviewing simulation data is the final phase of the process for this rule,” Stewart wrote in a letter to superintendents. “As you develop your final comments, I am providing you with a simulation of the letter grade each school would earn should the State Board adopt my proposed achievement level cut scores and the school grades rule in its current form. After the State Board adopts the rule and it goes into effect, we will calculate and release the official preliminary informational baseline school grades, which eventually will be the basis for school recognition dollars.”


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