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End of Course Exams throw parents for a loop

11:26 PM, Oct 30, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If you have a child in middle or high school, you might get a surprise on their final report cards.

Duval County raised the percentage that end of course exams will count for a student's final grade by 10 percent. 

When the end of course exams were first introduced the accounted for just 12.5 percent of a students grade. Then they were raised to 20 percent. This year, 30 percent of your child's final grade will be based on how they perform on one test.

"The teachers don't get a chance to teach, the students aren't learning the material, bottom line," said Cecelia Cristol.  

Cristol says the new grading for End of Course Exams has her 13 and 17 year old daughters in a panic.

"It's like the Wild Wild West! They take these questions, and they're not well written, they're confusing. And they're going to penalize our kids," she said.

It's up to the district to create some of the tests, which Cristol says are not standardized or fair for students.

"The section could be on mollusks... and the teacher might say, 'Ok, we're looking at snails,' but then the test has these weird  questions on clams. And they've never covered clams," she said.

Superintendent Dr. Nikoli Vitti says it's a fair critique, but there's not much he can do about it. 

"I certainly agree with the critique. But we are forced as a district to use these exams," he said.  

Vitti says he lobbied the state legislature against making the tests pass/fail.

When law makers decided on the tests accounting for 30 percent of the grade he says they did not provide the funding to do it right.

"It put districts in a difficult position to create hundreds of exams. Which one, we don't have the funding or the time to individually create a test," she said.

He says Duval County has invested in making the tests better and more standardized this year and moving forward.

But with two kids in the district himself, he understands where parents are coming from.

"As a parent, I see a lot of this. As a student who struggled with standardized tests, I'm certainly skeptical, but at the end of  the day, I hate when educational decisions are made more on politics and on soundbites rather than what's best for children," he said.

But Cristol says at the end of the day, it should really just be about the kids.

"It shouldn't be a fight, the grown ups against the kids," she said.

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