The State Board of Education voted to raise alternative SAT and ACT English and Algebra I test scores for high school graduation. It also eliminated the option of using the P.E.R.T. scores to meet high school FSA graduation requirements.
The argument for raising the SAT and ACT scores was that current levels are easier than the FSA levels for the same subjects. New data collected since 2016 indicate that the increase is necessary to make the difficulty levels for the FSA Algebra I and ELA Math and the SAT/ACT comparable.
The concerns are that many students who use the alternatives to the FSA are minorities, and the state graduation rates are expected to decline as a result. They are already below the 2017 national average of 84%. When the new cutoff scores are implemented in 2020, graduation rates are likely to drop approximately ten percent. No currently enrolled high school students will be affected.
Making valid comparisons of scores on different tests is always a challenge. Nevertheless, given that the FSA end of course exams are administered on a fixed schedule, it is not always possible for students who take six week credit retrieval courses or other classes with variable time lengths to sit the FSA tests. Thus, having national tests as an option for these students is helpful.
The more important concern is judging student competence. Any test is only a partial measure of students’ skills and abilities. Determining competence is a judgment. Competence is what a panel of educators and policy makers say it is. As expectations rise for what students must know and be able to do, the cut off scores on tests rise. Students deemed ‘competent’ five years ago may not make the cut now.
Florida policy makers are driving up expectations that not all students can meet and many schools do not have the resources to help students try. Policy makers and educators manipulate the numbers to meet their goals. The result is that state mandated tests weed students out; they do not bring students up.
Yet, all students and parents have the right to know how well students and schools perform and why. This ‘why’ is the elephant in the room.
Funding levels are down and expectations are up. What’s the old adage? You can’t get something from nothing? Or is it, You get what you pay for?
You can see the DOE cut scores here.