Board of Education aims to close the proficiency gap

Students’ pass rates on Florida’s new state exams should be closer to their performance on national standardized tests, members of the state Board of Education said during a meeting in Miami on Monday.

Education officials are now considering how to score the new Florida Standards Assessments, the state’s first exams based on the Common Core standards, which were first administered between March and May. Education commissioner Pam Stewart will soon present recommended “cut scores,” which determine how students’ raw performance on tests translate to a scale of 1 to 5, where 3 is passing, to both the Legislature and the state board. The board will make the final decision.

As states have transitioned to higher academic standards and new tests based on the exams, they have also attempted to close the gap between students’ performance on state and national exams. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to by educators as “the gold standard” in standardized tests, is seen as a more accurate judge of student performance than states’ individual exams.

In 2013-14, 61 percent of Florida fourth graders were deemed proficient in reading based on old state exams. That’s 22 points higher than their performance on NAEP, which reported a 39 percent pass rate. In eighth grade math, the gap between state and national exam results was 16 points. To close this gap, state board members want to make it more difficult for students to pass Florida’s exams.

“If we want to set our kids up for success, if we want to support our governor’s efforts to make this the best business climate in the country, we have to eliminate our proficiency gap with NAEP,” Gary Chartrand, a member from Ponte Vedra Beach, said during a committee meeting at the SEED School of Miami in Miami Gardens.

Vice chair John Padget, from Key West, argued in an editorial last week that making it harder to pass the exams might be painful at first, like “a cold shower,” but will ultimately help students to be more successful in their careers and lives.

During the board meeting, he said he had a comment to add to his essay: “Shame on us if Florida were to end up with a lower bar than our neighboring states, Alabama and Georgia.”

Padget was referring specifically to Georgia’s recent move to close its gap between student performance on state exams and NAEP. Previously, Georgia had one of the highest gaps, up to 60 points. Earlier this month, the state released its results on new exams and showed a dramatic drop.

Padget said he’s unhappy with the cut scores recommended by panels of teachers and community leaders earlier this month. Under those recommendations, students’ pass rates in some grades would hover around 50 percent — a drop, but not a dramatic enough drop to close the gap with the national results. He pressured Stewart to “bridge the gap…

Read more at POLITICO Florida 




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