Orange County School Board member Rick Roach did not believe that students were unable to read and read well in the 10th grade as measured by the FCAT. The 39 percent pass rate of reading at grade level in 10th grade caused him to question the test itself.
I have to tell you that I’ve never believed that that many kids can’t read at that level. Never ever believed it. I have five kids of my own. None of them were superstars at school but they could read well, and these kids today can read too.
“So I was thinking, ‘What are they taking that tells them they can’t read? What is this test? Our kids do okay on the eighth grade test and on the fifth grade test and then they get stupid in the 10th grade?”
In a bold move that garnered national attention in the Washington Post, Roach asked to take the FCAT that by state law only allows it to be taken by students. He was ultimately able to take a version of it. For an experienced professional with bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degrees, in education and educational psychology, the results were a surprise. He did not pass.
He found the reading section suspect as a valid indicator of reading ability:
He said he understands why so many students who can actually read well do poorly on the FCAT.
“Many of the kids we label as poor readers are probably pretty good readers. Here’s why.
“On the FCAT, they are reading material they didn’t choose. They are given four possible answers and three out of the four are pretty good. One is the best answer but kids don’t get points for only a pretty good answer. They get zero points, the same for the absolute wrong answer. And then they are given an arbitrary time limit. Those are a number of reasons that I think the test has to be suspect.”
He found the math section also suspect:
The math section, he said, tests information that most people don’t need when they get out of school.
“There’s a concept called reverse design that is critical,” he said. “We are violating that with our test. Instead of connecting what we learn in school with being successful in the real world, we are doing it in reverse. We are testing first and then kids go into the real world. Whether the information they have learned is important or not becomes secondary. If you really did a study on what math most kids need, I guarantee you could probably dump about 80 percent of math scores and leave high-level math for the kids who want it and will need it.
His conclusion? “They are defending a test that has no accountability.”
Florida Department of Education Commissioner, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Jeb Bush support an increase in 10th grade cut scores, which will make the new retooled FCAT harder to pass. School superintendents disagree with the logic in such a position.
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