Another Big Fail For Education: Lower Passing Scores When Students Test Poorly

Last Friday, I posted this piece about “revisiting education reform” after the Nation’s Report Card came out and showed that students are falling further behind the rest of the world that is growing all the more competitive in the global economy.

Now we have this story about Florida students performing abysmally on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam, specifically the writing portion, which was “made more difficult” than years past.

“The results indicated only about a third of students would pass this year's tougher Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam, compared with a passing rate of 80 percent or more last year.”  (Kale Rama, “Passing Score Lowered For FCAT Writing Exam,” WKMG Local 6, 5/15/12)

“The preliminary results show only 27 percent of fourth-graders received a passing score compared with 81 percent last year.”  (Kale Rama, “Passing Score Lowered For FCAT Writing Exam,” WKMG Local 6, 5/15/12)

“For eighth-graders it was 33 percent — down from 82 percent in 2011. For 10th-graders it was 38 percent — a drop from 80 percent last year.”  (Kale Rama, “Passing Score Lowered For FCAT Writing Exam,” WKMG Local 6, 5/15/12)

“The writing exam was made more difficult by increasing expectations for proper punctuation, capitalization, spelling and sentence structure.”  (Kale Rama, “Passing Score Lowered For FCAT Writing Exam,” WKMG Local 6, 5/15/12)

Alarming results. In response, Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, said “we need to examine what led to this, not just paper over the problem.” But that’s exactly what Florida’s Board of Education is doing, papering over the problem by lowering the “passing grade on the writing portion” of the test.

“The Board of Education decided in an emergency meeting Tuesday to lower the passing grade on the writing portion of Florida's standardized test after preliminary results showed a drastic drop in student passing scores.”  (Kale Rama, “Passing Score Lowered For FCAT Writing Exam,” WKMG Local 6, 5/15/12)

“The lower passing score is expected to increase the number of students passing the exam to 48 percent for fourth grade, 52 percent for eighth grade and 60 percent for 10th grade, still well below last year's results.”  (Kale Rama, “Passing Score Lowered For FCAT Writing Exam,” WKMG Local 6, 5/15/12)

So, apparently Florida’s children are not learning “proper punctuation, capitalization, spelling and sentence structure” and the answer to the problem is to simply lower the passing grade. I’m not sure what fails students more, not giving them the tools to write or dismissing it by making it seem as though students are doing better than they are. That’s like passing kids through, grade after grade, without making sure they can read. Another big fail in today’s education system.

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