By a 6-1 vote, the State Board of Education voted to pass Commissioner Pam Stewart’s proposed Florida Standards Assessment cut scores and school grades thresholds. Vice Chair John Padget was the no vote.
Amid calls in October to make Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) cut scores more stringent and closely aligned with nationally rigorous scores, like NAEP, Commissioner Stewart released a simulation in December of how her proposed FSA cut scores and adjusted accountability thresholds would affect school grades—a picture very similar to the previous year. The board members, superintendents, and many others present at the meeting supported the commissioner’s proposed thresholds, expressing a desire to honor the process that went into deciding on the cut scores citing that it would be a disservice to the 300 plus people who helped to decide appropriate FSA scores for students. Additionally, board members felt sufficient research had been presented on the difference between the NAEP and FSA to treat the two tests as separate indictors of student knowledge.
The vote was still met with opposition prior to the official vote. A representative from the Foundation for Excellence in Education proposed three alternatives to the Commissioner’s proposal—all of which would have produced the largest number of F schools in the State’s history of school grades. One board member, in particular, still wanted a score of 4 on the FSA to represent proficiency—a term that would be used to indicate a student potential readiness at the college level. Furthermore, there was still resistance to the release of school grades at all for the 2014-2015 school year because learning gains would not be included. However, despite these things, an overwhelming majority of the board and the public supported the FSA scores and thresholds for the school grades.
You can see a visualization showing the impact of the thresholds here.
The commissioner and members of the board recognized that this would not be the final evaluation of these scores nor would there ever be a perfect solution. The group acknowledged that communication about and interpretation of test scores has been muddled with jargon and interchangeable use of words that do not mean the same thing. More directly, a score of 3 on the FSA does NOT mean proficient—a term used in the NAEP. Earning a 3 on the FSA simply means passing or satisfactory. To clarify the difference for parents, a handout equipped with color-coded messaging, will be sent home with explanations of their child’s scores in English, Spanish, and Creole. The board promised to continuously revisit the calculations, especially after a year of learning gains to ensure that the scores and threshold chosen uphold the rigor intended by the commissioner and state board.
The school grades are slated to be released in February.