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.