Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FCAT Is about the School Next Door; Conversion to a New System Has Students Graded on a Curve

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FCAT Is about the School Next Door; Conversion to a New System Has Students Graded on a Curve

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Kelli Palka

Scores on this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test won't be based solely on the students' performances on the exam but on how they do compared to the other students in the state.

It's not yet clear what that will mean for Duval County schools, especially the county's four struggling intervene schools, but local officials fear it could hurt. If Raines, Ribault and Jackson high schools and North Shore K-8 don't show gains on the FCAT this year, they may be turned over to a management group.

"That is absurd," said School Board member Betty Burney about this year's scoring protocol. "For some of the kids, it won't matter if they've studied their hearts out, because the state is just going to be concerned with a percentage."

Usually the state reports student scores based on individual achievement levels and then compares the current year scores to previous years to determine performance gains. But this year's tests, called FCAT 2.0, are more rigorous than previous tests because they were written to match updated standards. The state won't set achievement levels for FCAT 2.0 until next fall.

So to show student performance gains, the state will report FCAT 2.0 on the existing FCAT scale by linking the percentiles of the two tests. For instance, if 9 percent of sixth-grade students statewide scored an achievement level of 5 last year on the math FCAT, this year only the top 9 percent of students will be able to score a 5.

Statewide, the percentage of students scoring at each achievement level won't change from 2010. But the percentage would likely vary at the district and school levels.

The process the state is using is similar to the one used to identify what scores students must score on the SAT or ACT to graduate if they didn't pass the 10th-grade FCAT. …

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