FCAT Scandal? – say it aint so

July 18, 2006

GrumpyA scandal in FCAT scoring process?

Lake Mary, Florida – – 7/18/2006 – – John L. Winn, commissioner, Florida Department of Education may have exposed a major flaw and scandal with the scoring of FCAT exams.  In a letter published in the Palm Beach Post (July 3, 2006), Winn wrote:
“The department (Florida Department of Education) extensively monitors performance during every day of scoring. In fact, Florida’s monitoring procedures are some of the most thorough and comprehensive of any in the nation.  Our level of involvement surpasses that of most states and, certainly, the industry standard.”

One or more scorers have reported that Florida Department of Education personnel modified scoring rules mid-stream causing some exams to be given higher scores then similar exams.  The scorers remain anonymous because they were required to sign a secrecy statement with threats of legal action for revealing information.

FCAT scoring is contracted to an independent agent.  It is that agent’s job to train scorers and to check on consistency and thus the truthfulness of exam scores.  The extent to which Department of Education daily monitoring resulted in corrupting interventions in the scoring process has not been determined.

Why would the Department of Education personnel intervene in the scoring? It can not be an intent to ensure that the scorers were consistently and accurately scoring the tests, as described by Winn.  That is the job of the independent contractor.

DOE personnel, school district employees, parents, and children are well aware of the politically motivated demand for higher FCAT scores.  The political reputations and futures of many elected officials and candidates rest, in part, with a demonstration of a positive impact of Florida’s A+ plan.  Department of Education personnel can ill afford to have scores indicate a drop or a leveling in student FCAT scores.

It would be easy for Department personnel to influence scorers into increasing the points awarded to answers by modifying the scoring rules. If changes were made after some tests were scored, without re-scoring all exams, the total process is invalid.  Schools or school districts would benefit from arranging to have their tests scored later in the process, another source of corruption.

An independent investigation is called for.  The people of Florida need to ensure that political and educational leaders in Florida and the Nation permit an investigation by an independent panel.

Contact:
Dr. Robert R. Lange
Retired professor of Educational Research
Phone:  407 322-6234
Email:  qida@bellsouth.net  or
lange@mail.ucf.edu

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