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Nearly Half of Florida's 10th Graders to Fail Part of FSA Under New Cut Score Formula

January 6, 2016 - 5:15pm

The State Board of Education voted in favor of Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart’s recommendations for the Florida Standards Assessment cut scores in Tallahassee Wednesday. 

The State board overwhelmingly approved Stewart’s plan by a 6-1 vote, with all members in favor except vice chair John Padget, who had previously criticized Stewart’s recommendations as well as the new proposal to calculate school grades.

Padget, who expressed concerns that Stewart’s recommendations had set the bar “too low,” had been a staunch advocate of using test scores which reflected the proficiency levels of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national standardized test which randomly selects students for testing purposes. 

Under the commissioner’s cut score recommendation, nearly half of Florida’s 10th graders would fail the English Language Arts portion of the FSA.

The commissioner’s passing score breakdown shows whether or not a student scored high enough to be considered “passing” a particular section of the FSA. Scores are ranked on a 1-5 scale and a passing score is usually any score above a Level 3.

According to Stewart’s recommended “cut scores,” a little over half of Florida’s third graders passed the English Language Arts portion of the FSA. On top of that, 51 percent of the state’s 10th graders passed the ELA portion of the test, which means 49 percent -- almost half -- of the state’s students didn’t pass a test required for them to graduate high school.

“I am convinced that the State Board of Education’s decision is right for Florida’s students,” Stewart said in a statement. “We have an obligation to the people of Florida to provide a public education system that prepares all students for future success, and today’s actions enable us to continue moving full-steam ahead.”

Students’ scores weren’t the only issue the board took up Wednesday. Members also tackled the new formula for school grades, which will determine which schools receive an A-F letter grade for the academic school year.

The majority of Florida’s schools would receive the same letter grade since the plan aims to stabilize letter grades from the 2014 school year. As part of the new school grade formula, the board lowered the percentage points necessary to attain each grade. 

The board’s vote on school grades was met with applause from superintendents statewide, including Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who has been particularly critical of the cut score process in recent months.

“Exclusive reliance on standardized tests to generate performance conclusions, such as school grades, is myopically insufficient,” said Carvalho. 

Board members said they felt confident in Stewart’s recommendations and the new school grading system.

“I believe this is the right baseline for our transition and that we will keep our focus on student and school success,” said board chair Marva Johnson.



Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.


Why should the students try on these tests? I was a test administrator last year and the look on the students faces broke my heart. I tested almost half of the school and the look was the same each time! DEFEAT!! I hate how these tests make our students feel and how they feel determines how hard they will try.

They have past these English test in Taiwan and South Korea Why not in the USA?

The testing is a shell game to privatize the school system. It is all a political game, created by the crooks themselves. The private/charter school lobby is a big provider to the RPOF. The only reason test scores have gone up is teachers have stopped teaching important learning objectives and educational concepts and have turned their focus on how to pass the stupid assessment tests. The general public is too stupid to realize what is being done right under their nose. The reason the far eastern and Scandinavian countries lead the world in early education is simple: Money and technology. They put huge sums of money into education, they integrate technology into education at a high level, they pay teachers very high salaries, and they value teachers in the same vane as doctors, lawyers, stars... Best of all, politicians are not permitted to change or tamper with education. Only academia and educational authority may make changes and nothing is based on a single standardized test. It is what most called holistic testing or all areas of development. Going to school 7 days a week doesn't hurt either...

This is the beginning of mandatory life long learning (re-education) that will again come out of the taxpayer's right hip pocket. They want to set up the system to remediate and remediate. But they insure that the schools and staff are not penalized for their plan of reoccurring education. We are stupid and blind to the intent of educators to keep their gravy train running smoothly.

It is apparent that our youth are failing test that high officials can not pass themselves. Test should be utilized as tools to determine a childs strengths and weaknesses. We are doing more harm than good to our youth. Some of these students would benefit greatly if some Vocational schools were provide to help them be successful. Our youth are the future and we are failing them. Some of the persons who make and decide on testing should go in the schools and share there so call expertise with all educator who are teaching and living in the real world and not a fantasy.

Somehow this seems to be the same rationale when everyone is given a trophy so no one's feelings get hurt! Or are they not learning? Parents not being responsible or teaching style needs some help??

Education is not a competition, and there is no reason it should be competitive. The test itself, and the cut scores, are designed to fail nearly half of the students who take it. There is no evidence that the test actually assesses what it is supposed to, and a single test is a very poor indicator of what a student has mastered and an even worse measure of how well a teacher has taught. The testing "reforms" are not meant to improve schools.

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