FCAT reading, math scores released; could lead to more confusion

Florida students earned about the same results on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests for reading and math, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Education. Parents, students and teachers could have a hard time parsing the actual scores, however, because like the FCAT writing test, a higher standard was used to judge the tests this year than in 2011. For example, 56 percent of third grade students earned a 3 or above on the reading test, compared with 57 percent last year, if judged by the same standards. The tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. A score of 3 is deemed “proficient.” But while last year’s reading tests were given as FCAT 2.0 exams, which used more challenging material in the substance of the test, they were graded by the older Sunshine State Standards. So when last year’s scores were released, 72 percent of third grade students scored a 3 or above. When judged by the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards that were used this year, only 57 percent of third graders achieved a proficient score. “Essentially, the scores reported last year in 2011 were on the old scale,” said Jane Fletcher, director of the education department’s Division of Accountability, Research and Measurement. Although much attention is paid to those scoring 3 or higher, getting at least a 2 is very important for third graders because that score is required to pass that grade level. This year, 18 percent of third grade students received a 1 on the test. Not all of those students will be held back a year, however, because there are several exemptions. Students who pass a summer reading program, for instance, can advance to fourth grade. Third graders fared a little bit better in math, with 58 percent scoring a 3 or higher this year, compared with 56 percent last year using the higher standards. Ninth graders beat out 10th grade students on the reading test this year, with 52 percent of high school freshmen earning a 3 or better compared with 50 percent for sophomores. Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said Thursday that he would “hold harmless as much as possible the students who are taking the test,” despite the lower numerical scores. After the awkward release of the FCAT writing scores last week,  the State Board of Education lowered the proficiency score from a 4 to a 3 because higher standards led to a dramatic drop in scores.  Robinson said then his department needs to do a better job of explaining the changes in the FCAT tests to parents and students. He set up a hotline, website and online forum for parents’ questions and suggestions, and is holding town hall meetings throughout the state next week. Robinson’s next town hall meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at Evans High School in Orlando and will be hosted by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando.






http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/even-with-tougher-fcat-hernando-third-graders-equal-or-better-than-state/1231855 (Joe Vitalo quoted)


http://www.newsdaytonabeach.com/Radio/WNDB/Morning-Drive/Teachers-Reaction-to-FCAT-Scores-Spar-AUDIO.html (Andrew Spar quoted)













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A national workers' rights group has filed a federal complaint over Florida's revamped unemployment compensation system, claiming that the Sunshine State has become the most difficult place in the nation for unemployed people seeking benefits. Last year, Florida overhauled its unemployment compensation system, reducing the number of weeks available and enacting several new requirements for those seeking jobless benefits. The National Employment Law Project and Florida Legal Services say those changes have slammed tens of thousands of unemployed Floridians. The complaints say only 15 percent of eligible unemployed Floridians are actually getting benefits, ranking Florida dead last in a nation that averages 27 percent. "When you take all of these (changes) together, you've created a program that has erected insurmountable barriers for people who are eligible," said Valory Greenfield, staff attorney at Florida Legal Services. The groups have asked U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to investigate. Under the new law, which went into effect last August, job-seekers who want to receive the roughly $275 weekly unemployment checks must complete a 45-question "skills review" test and provide documentation showing that they are actively looking for work. Most applicants have to apply online, as the popular option of filing claims via telephone was eliminated last year. The skills test alone has nixed more than 40,000 eligible applicants, according to the complaint.



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