Thursday, April 19, 2007

On Standards, Cut Scores, and Expectations

Here's a piece from The St. Petersburg Times about tenth-grade reading tests in Florida. It does a pretty good job of trying to untangle some of the complexities of testing. (Who would have imagined we'd reach a point where this is considered of interest to the general public?)

Suddenly, 10th-graders are FCAT flops
A moving bar makes failures of students who tested well once and still outrank U.S. peers.

Published April 15, 2007

Florida's 10th-graders look like terrible readers. Their FCAT scores are the worst in the state.

Yet those same students are among the best readers on a test that compares Florida students with their peers across the United States. They also score well on the FCAT math test.

Why the confusing results?

Blame an FCAT system that holds students in different grades to very different standards.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in high school, where the bar is highest. Only one-third of Florida's 10th-graders met FCAT reading standards last year. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of seventh-graders passed.

The disparities have consequences:

More than half of Florida's elementary schools earned A's last year, compared with fewer than 20 percent of high schools. Elementaries received $81-million in FCAT reward money. That compares with $23-million for high schools.

"We do not make kids dumber when they come to high school," said Jeff Boldt, the principal of Chamberlain High School in Tampa, which has earned straight C's since school grades debuted.

State officials acknowledge the standards are far more rigorous for high school students, but say they need to be to prepare them for college and work.

But some testing experts say large inconsistencies between grades and subjects can undermine confidence in the system.

Kristen Jackson, an 11th-grader at Tampa's Alonso High, has narrowly failed the FCAT graduation requirement in reading twice. But by another reading test, she can read as well or better than 96 percent of her peers nationally.

"I was actually crying when I failed," said Kristen, who earns A's and B's. "It tortured me. It was a horrific experience."

More here.

No comments: