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FCAT Fallout: UNF Professor Weighs In

7:02 PM, May 16, 2012   |    comments
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FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WEBSITE

FCAT EXPLORER (Website that students use)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Some parents have a petition in place asking lawmakers to rework the current Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

On Tuesday, the state Board of Education lowered the bar so more students passed the writing test. The previous pass score resulted in a huge percentage drop in the number of students who did proficient work.

"We are asking more from our students and teachers than we ever have," said Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson.

Dr. Christine Weber is a University of North Florida education professor who understands why parents are concerned. Every winter, she is part of team that hosts an 18-hour writing camp to tutor students for the exam.

"If you cannot read what the directions are, it effects the validity of the test," said Weber, noting some fourth graders do have problems understanding the prompt.

A prompt guides students on what they will be writing about during the 45 minute test.

Weber says the prompt in itself can cause problems, citing that fourth graders for the FCAT were instructed to "Tell a story about riding a camel."

The UNF educator said she heard that some fourth graders had problems reading the word "camel," while others did not understanding its meaning.

"If you don't know what the word is, if you don't read directions or the prompt, you cannot be successful in your writing," she said.

Weber believes testing is needed, but getting it right is the big challenge facing the Board of Education. She believes the 45-minute test is just a snapshot in time of a students' abilities and doesn't necessarily show the progress a student is making.  

First Coast News

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