2012 FCAT Writing Scores Fall Dramatically; State BOE Lowers Standards

May 15, 2012

[Updated Noon] Preliminary grades on a ramped up statewide writing assessment were so bad that state education officials decided Tuesday to lower the standards for a passing grade.

According to results released Monday, passing scores on the FCAT writing assessment plummeted from 81 percent to 27 percent for fourth graders and showed similar drops in eighth and 10th grades.

Tuesday, the board unanimously lowered the passing grade on the writing assessment from 4.0 to 3.0 on a 6-point scale in an effort to insulate schools from changes in how the test was scored. State educators said they share some of the blame by not properly preparing schools and parents for the heightened standards, which included more emphasis on grammar and punctuation.

Education officials Monday blamed the plummeting scores on a handful of factors including more rigorous standards. Now, the State Board of Education has to determine what to do with the scores, which have been used to determine school grades.

Failing schools are required to put in place certain remedial programs that cost more to provide in already tight budget times.

Among the changes made over the past two years, this year’s tests were graded by two reviewers. Test standards were also raised to include more attention to writing conventions like punctuation, capitalization and grammar. The pool of test takers was also expanded to include lower performing students.

The combination proved problematic.

“When the increased threshold of 4.0 was established by rule, the State Board of Education did not have, and could not have had, impact data that would reflect how the scoring rules changes would impact student results and the school grade calculations,” the Department wrote in a justification for holding an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss a plan of action.

“Based on preliminary results of the 2012 writing assessment, applying the 4.0 threshold in addition to the heightened scoring rules may have unforeseen adverse impacts upon school grades, warranting emergency review by the State Board of Education.”

Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, said the dramatically lower scores point to the shortfalls of relying on such high stakes tests for funding and student assessment.

“There have been a lot of parents over the years who have been unhappy with the assessments,” Pudlow said. “Hopefully this will give us a real opportunity to see how we should evaluate students and evaluate teachers”

The advocacy group FundEducationNow.org slammed the state education bureaucracy, saying the swing in grades shows that the FCAT is a “multi-million dollar sham.”


35 Responses to “2012 FCAT Writing Scores Fall Dramatically; State BOE Lowers Standards”

  1. Idea on June 20th, 2012 10:29 am

    After reading some of the comments, I just have to add my own. I took the FCAT years ago.. your right “David” it is not the same test because they have lowered the standard for passing multiple times. I was not an “A” or ” AB” student… I barely passed school. But I ACED the mess out of that test almost 10 years ago. At some points I was at college level! Explain that! Here I will…. Florida students do not have to participate in the NATIONWIDE test known as the SATs… only in highschool do they have the option to take the SATs if they are looking to enter college because that is what test score they are looking for. FCAT was setup to make Florida feel better about the lack of education and teachers abilities. We should fight for Florida to participate in the SATs so we can see where our children rank compared to other children around the country. When I was in school my teachers didnt spend half the year preping us for the FCAT. All these are some reasons why I dont waste my time with public schools anymore. People need to wake up! These are our kids we are talking about. Something needs to change in Florida!

  2. Teacher on May 18th, 2012 8:26 pm

    This is why the scores were so low….these prompts were setting them up for failure:
    Grade 4
    Writing to Tell a Story (Narrative): The grade 4 narrative prompt directed the student to suppose someone had a chance to ride a camel and to write a story about what happens on this camel ride.

    Grade 8
    Writing to Persuade (Persuasive): The grade 8 persuasive prompt directed the student to convince the principal whether or not 8th grade students should be graded on how they behave in school.

    Grade 10
    Writing to Persuade (Persuasive): The grade 10 persuasive prompt directed the student to convince business leaders whether students should have a part-time job sometime during high school.

  3. Wondering on May 18th, 2012 12:25 am

    Instead of lowering the passing grade maybe teachers should be questioned as to why thier students cannot write a passing essay isn’t it thier job to educate our children not lower the standards

  4. No Excuses on May 16th, 2012 7:39 pm

    @ Tax Payer,

    Interesting that the teachers’ pay is being based on the performance of students on the FCAT, when suddenly, the bar is raised in expectation of performance results being raised as well. This would be a fair expectation if the teachers had been warned and given the appropriate rubrics to help them prepare the students. BTW, I’ve observed in several classrooms in Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties and I can tell you that I don’t just see “teaching to the test” going on. The kids are learning all kinds of valuable things.

    I am an educator of 29 years. I have worked with ESE and general education students and I observe student teachers in the field. I am currently working with adults and preparing them to take the GED. The essay portion of the writing skills test is given much the same as it is on the FCAT. I’d also like to add that not just anyone can be a teacher! The standards for a person to become a teacher are stringent to say the least.

    Stop blaming teachers for the failure of some students. Yes, there are poor teachers, but that might happen 1 in every 500 teachers. Most teachers that I know put their hearts and souls into teaching.

    Take this scenario and attitude out 10 years – Florida is going to have a real recruiting problem in the education field. No one will want to go into education because it is such an unappreciated and underpaid job. Then, people like you will have plenty to point a finger at. Pray for your grandkids because unless things change, they will probably not have the creme of the crop in teachers to choose from!

  5. just me on May 16th, 2012 7:55 am

    @Tired: video games are educational. Not sure what games you have seen but my son has learned more about History on these games then he ever did in public school. Some kids, even with good parents who help with homework, will struggle to pass these test. Some people just dont test well no matter how much they have learned. I am 46 and I was never a good tester and to this day probably wouldn’t be. It’s not my parents fault and Im not a dumb uneducated person. Education isn’t just what you learn in school. We homeschool and we learn on a daily basis about all things, not just math, science etc. We do real life learning which isn’t something kids are allowed to do in school. The World is much bigger than a 4 wall room preparing for FCAT

  6. David Huie Green on May 16th, 2012 5:43 am

    “my daughter and her friends took them 8 yrs ago and they all passed. But then again, they all had parents who believed in homework and helped their children with it”

    Commendable when parents do their duties but not the same test, not the same passing requirements, not quite a valid comparison even if going by the same name.

    David concerning apples and oranges

  7. AnnoyedEighthGrader on May 15th, 2012 11:14 pm

    As an eighth grader, I’m appalled by FCAT. I’m a writer; I’ve won awards at The Miami-Dade County Fair and Scholastic, and FCAT continues to befuddle me. In 4th grade, my prompt was “Write to explain your favorite classroom job”. Lovely. This year, mine was “Write to persuade your principal whether students should or should not be graded on their behavior in school”. They couldn’t have been any more vague and confusing, considering we already have conduct grades. And as to the grading… I’ve never had grammar in school; the class where I’ve learned the most, in fact, has been Spanish. It’s instinctive for me, but most don’t posses an intuitive grasp of grammar without instruction. FCAT- Florida Child Abuse Test. It’s more appropriate, really, then “Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test”… a bit redundant, isn’t it? Perhaps the same person who coined the name set the grading scale this year, or made teachers’ pay dependent upon it.

  8. Tired on May 15th, 2012 10:38 pm

    Not sure why these tests seem to be so difficult….my daughter and her friends took them 8 yrs ago and they all passed. But then again, they all had parents who believed in homework and helped their children with it…… If parents would help their children with their homework, maybe the kids would be able to learn and hold that information! Video games are not educational…… just saying….

  9. bigbill1961 on May 15th, 2012 10:04 pm

    Whatever happened to teaching students so that they actually learn something? There is WAY too much focus on preparing students to pass a standardized test. Lowering standards when things get tougher is definitely not the answer. Students should pass because they put in the required effort and EARNED a passing grade.
    This is, of course, only my opinion.

  10. 4562west on May 15th, 2012 9:32 pm

    I feel so sorry for the teachers. This is not their fault it is higher than them. They can only do so much the fault should be to who is in charge of our schools that person should not be to scared to stand up for our children and let everyone know what the real problem was.

  11. 8th grade teacher on May 15th, 2012 7:10 pm

    Many people probably don’t realize that teachers prepare their students by teaching them according to the rubric established by the state. We spent the entire year teaching according to last years rubric because the state failed to provide us with the new rubric – the one that was used to score the writing test this year. This rubric has yet to be seen by the schools and teachers who are responsible for properly preparing the students.

  12. billw on May 15th, 2012 6:47 pm

    Imagine this scenario . 20 kids sitting in front of you. Some didn’t get breakfast that day. Some went to bed late and are tired or a situation in the home (nobody knows about) is causing their mind to wander. Some are happy and ready to learn something new ,some would rather be somewhere else. Who really knows what is going on in their minds?
    Your task is to teach a subject and have them all grasp the material at a passing ( pretty much same) level.
    Most of you will never know how challenging this is. Yet it happens everyday in every classroom in the State.

  13. Molino-Anon on May 15th, 2012 5:18 pm

    The way I see it all school is anymore, is just one nine month long study group to pass FCAT so the schools do not get penalized for funding.

    What ever happened to studying in your text book, taking tests on it, and at the end of the year if you’ve done well you pass?

    And we wonder what is happening to our schools. In 10 years there will be no public schools, all schools will be private or you home school, period.

  14. Molino Mom on May 15th, 2012 3:11 pm

    tax payer, why should they lower the teachers pay? It is just as much the parents responsibility to teach and help the children as the teachers. The teacher can only do so much when they have 15-20 students at different levels of learning, but most parents could help with what the teacher sends home for homework.

  15. An Educator on May 15th, 2012 2:49 pm

    For the past ten + years the DOE has not counted grammar, spelling, or punctuation on the writing test. As an educator we have fussed about this for years telling the DOE how can you grade writing only on content. Now they are counting it all. So, for an 8th grader, they have written for 8 years and not once has anything but content been graded but BOOM this year it is all graded. So, so unfair. I wish our great house, senate, and governor to take a 45 minute writing test with a prompt given to them without notice……along with grammar, spelling, and punctuation counting!!!!! Wonder how well they would do?

  16. tax payer on May 15th, 2012 2:30 pm

    they should lower the teachers pay as much as they did they requirements to pass.

  17. stanley on May 15th, 2012 2:15 pm

    i say that you cant exactly blame the students for the failure of this test. they simply made this standardized test to complicated to succeed. Not every student can write a perfect essay on a difficult topic such as the one posted this year. but i do agree that the test should be scored on punctuation, grammar, capitalization etc. But they set the FCAT standards way to high and expect to have higher succession rates on the test.

  18. David Huie Green on May 15th, 2012 12:33 pm

    “This could be from ese students being more main streamed now”

    Considering the drop from 81 percent making 4 or above last year and 27 percent making 4 or above this year, that would be true only if the vast majority of fourth grade students were ESE and if none of those ESE students could pass the writing test.

    David for admitting test flawed
    or retaining 73% of fourth graders,
    67% of eighth graders,
    62% of tenth graders

  19. David Huie Green on May 15th, 2012 12:23 pm

    They made the test harder to pass and fewer passed. whodathunk?

    David for impossible tests
    like the Kobayashi Maru

  20. T on May 15th, 2012 11:54 am

    I just need to add that all of this crazy testing is doing nothing more that stressing our kids, teachers, and principals. It’s not just FCAT that these kids are taking. Just to name a few test our kids take during the year.
    1. Beging, Middle, End of the year GOMATH test witch has to be entered in the computer.
    2. FAIR test giving least twice a year
    3 STAR test usually every quarter
    4 Cold read
    This is just a few….
    Also the process it takes to get kids that are performing low help, takes a whole year. There so far behind by the time all the paper work is done it’s almost impossible to get them back on track. Then the child must be retained. That process will put you in the grave a few years sooner. All this testing and paperwork that has to be done, means our teachers have very little time to TEACH. Teachers have become secretaries!

  21. Sherri Share on May 15th, 2012 10:42 am

    This could be from ese students being more main streamed now. It is a problem that should really be looked into to help the children be able to learn. it also would help the children who might not need as much help to get alittle more time with the teacher. Teachers are trying their best but it is still hard. Thank you to all the teachers who truley want to help these children when it can be very stressfull.

  22. Oversight on May 15th, 2012 9:54 am

    BOGIAN wrote: “If a student is not able to write a proper sentence, shouldn’t they be flunking English?”

    Here is an example of the English/grammar problem. “Student” is a singular noun and “they” is a plural pronoun. So which should it be, “students” in place of “student” to make the sentence agree for plural, or would “he or she” be put in place of “they” to agree with the singular “student?”

  23. darryl on May 15th, 2012 8:57 am

    1. Get rid of standardized test.
    2. Teach kids how to learn and how to problem solve; they’re not going to get all the math, English, history, science, etc. they will need in the schools. It is just a start.
    3. Get kids to reading books. This is where parents have to step in and start them early by reading to them, then teaching them to begin reading.
    4. Get rid of standardized test.

  24. BOGIAN on May 15th, 2012 8:50 am

    If a student is not able to write a proper sentence, shouldn’t they be flunking English? If some of these students are getting passing grades in their English classes and then turning in terrible work on the state exam, what does that say? Are their teachers being too lenient? Are the state standards too stringent? Is it in the best interest of your children to make the test easier? There are more questions than answers here, but it seems to me that the leaders of the education industry have some soul searching to do. It would be great to churn out legions of students that write like William Faulkner, but not every student will have the need or the aptitude to reach that level.

  25. Say What on May 15th, 2012 8:49 am

    Most of our educational problems are a direct result of the “No Kid Left Behind” agenda. Instead of helping the slower kids “speed up”, it causes our brighter kids to “slow down”. It’s inevitable, there WILL always be kids left behind…in fact, it’s Biblical that not all people are gifted with the same level of abilities.

    Our legislators, teachers and parents need to stand up and fight the “NKLB” agenda and start teaching our brightest students to “be the best they can be” and if they happen to “leave kids behind”, then so be it.

  26. bn on May 15th, 2012 8:44 am

    as a parent of kids in the school system the test is a joke the scool year is spent getting ready for this test and teacher pay is based on the out come i have teachers tell me kids that boomed on the test come back after summer vaction and than score high when asked why they did so bad the last year the answer is i did not fill like it or i just chrismas tree the test to get done my kids are in high school and do not know what i was learning in the 4th grade and im 45 and my oldest we took out of the school system because she failed every year from middle school on but she keep being past (no child left behind) so yes our school system is a joke not the teachers but the (d o e) plus if u drop out of scool you can take the ged test and if u score 500 or better u get a high scool diploma and all the colledges will take u i have called and asked no fcat needed

  27. Say What on May 15th, 2012 8:38 am

    “Test standards were also raised to include more attention to writing conventions like punctuation, capitalization and grammar”.

    Seriously, this quote above is an example of what is wrong with our education system. Why have they not been testing for these “conventions” from day one?! Teachers will teach based on the content and expectations of the FCAT exam…so, the good news is that maybe our teachers will begin teaching punctuation, spelling and grammar.

  28. just me on May 15th, 2012 7:37 am

    When more people start pulling their kids out of public schools maybe some things will change. We home school and maybe we dont focus on math as much or having to do everything in a timed fashion but I know my kids are remembering just as much if not more than kids who have to sit in a class all day with FCAT being crammed down them. We need to let kids be kids again and not robots learning only what our State believes they should know. My kids learn amazing things everyday that will get them through real life not just what will get them through FCAT.

  29. TBrown on May 15th, 2012 7:33 am

    FCAT has always been a system that was designed to eventually fail. Every year the standards were readjusted “to challenge the students” and it was just a matter of time that those standards would exceed the abilities of the students. This year’s results should be a wake-up call for the DOE that they need to re-evaluate FCAT, if not eliminate it altogether. In reality, the series of tests evaluate the students abilities on the particular day they are taking the exam. If the student is in the proper frame of mind, he or she will obviously do poorly on the test. A more realistic evaluation system should include a series of pre- and post-tests that would more accurately measure a student’s learning gains.

  30. Ramona Matthews on May 15th, 2012 7:08 am

    Continue to do the work with students for them to be able to succeed after they graduate from highschool. My daughter graduated with a 4.6 grade point average and had no problem with the FCAT. There was no reason to up the standards on the FCAT if teachers and children are barely passing it anyways! It puts terrific stress on students, teachersand admininstration to remain in all “A” status. Fortunately,for my son who is now in third grade and thought the FCAT was easy
    is not aware of the tremendous STRESS that is on the administration to actually receive a 4 or better from students. All i can do is give a shout out to teachers who teach children and not teach them the FCAT test. Just be teachers AGAIN!

  31. Fairlane63 on May 15th, 2012 6:15 am

    So standards went up and test scores dropped? Duh! Only the brainless bureaucrats at the Florida DOE would be surprised by something like that.

    This will make testing even MORE of a focus than it already is and actual education will suffer as a result. Again.

  32. Jennifer Tracey M.S. on May 15th, 2012 6:06 am

    In the past, spelling and grammar were not counted towards the grade for students, as well as capitalization. Is this what we really want to teach our students, that spelling, grammar, and punctuation do not count when writing for communication? Additionally, how are these schools getting their scores, when they have not been released yet?

  33. A on May 15th, 2012 5:38 am

    Well, 10th graders. There was no excuse not to pass this year. The very-alike prompt was up even before testing day. It is the very first prompt in this link


    This happened to my school, where almost all the English teachers decided to give the first prompt in the link to their students, and miraculously, this was the prompt that showed up on testing day. No excuse not to pass.

  34. FHG on May 15th, 2012 3:02 am


    ya think?

  35. J C on May 15th, 2012 12:27 am

    Biggest problem? Standardizing tests. Yes it tries to be fair to each and every student, but actually the prompts have always, in my opinion, been uninteresting to write on. And I’m in college now. Had above a 4.0 GPA at graduation and all that. But, also these kids in our area heard the FCAT was going to be abolished, and now the test is holding them back. Communication needs to happen; and standardizing these tests,…well, the kids just do not respond to them like my class did. WE knew FCAT was broad and predictable. *C/O 2011* Look back at our scores. We blew them out the roof. But it got old quick.

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