MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Just 24 hours after the state of Florida decided to lower standards to allow more students to pass the written part of the FCAT; the Miami-Dade School Board is debating whether the FCAT is setting expectations correctly or is too hard.

The Miami-Dade School Board reviewed early results from the FCAT and any smiles the board had for legislators for funding schools this year disappeared.

Preliminary results that have started to come in have been abysmal. The worst scores so far came from 4th graders on the written part of the test. Last year, 81 percent of the state passed their writing essays; this year, just 27 percent.

“All their indicators were expecting a small uptick; no one could have anticipated a 54 percent drop,” said state Representative Dwight Bullard.

Bullard, a teacher, said there a multitude of reasons to blame. In just the last year, there were more than a dozen changes to the test. Among those changes were the passing score on a 1-6 scale was raised to four and spelling, grammar, and punctuation counted more this year.

Still, the school board said students aren’t learning less, it’s just the expectations of scores have increased.

“We want parents to understand the level of education hasn’t changed. It’s the measure of education has changed,” said school board member Raquel Regalado.

The changes could have serious effects for South Florida where many students are just learning English.

South Florida schools could see school’s lose two letter grades this year and many students could be held back. Miami-Dade Schools superintendent Alberto Carvahlo said it was inhumane.

“This is not fair; this is not right and something needs to change,” Carvahlo said.

The FCAT scores will also have a negative impact on the community overall and teachers. The community could see millions of dollars lost from the local education budget for poor performance on the FCAT. In addition, teacher salaries are now tied to the FCAT.

That means a teacher in a poorly performing district could be penalized for her students’ failing scores, regardless of the teacher’s ability. That and the FCAT overall have led critics to charge the school’s have no choice but to teach kids how to take the test, not to learn.

As the criticism growing from parents, teachers, and higher education; the state may have no choice but to eventually end the test completely.

“We did listen in the legislature,” said state Senator Carlos Lopez Cantera. “You can’t just turn out the light, but the FCAT is on its way out.”


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