Lawmaker wants to dump 11th grade science FCAT

Today, House Bill 543, “Educational Assessment”, was filed by Representative Debbie Mayfield (R). The bill text indicates that Mayfield would like to see a major change to the science FCAT.

Notwithstanding s. 1008.22, Florida Statutes, or any other provision of the law to the contrary, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in science administered to students in grade 11 shall be discontinued at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, the science assessment administered at the high school level shall be one or more end-of-course examinations. The Commissioner of Education shall select one or more nationally developed comprehensive assessments for use as end-of-course examinations. An end-of-course examination must be rigorous and standardized, approved by the State Board of Education, and administered statewide. The content knowledge and skills assessed by an end-of-course examination must be aligned to the core curricular content established in the Sunshine State Standards.

I don’t know what Mayfield’s reason for the bill is. However, it seems to make sense. Keep in mind that science FCATs carry no repercussions for students who fail it, but do affect the schools’ grades. So, it would make sense that there would be a desire to do away with the stress. Kids have been bribed by schools to take and pass this test. See a previous post about this here.

Ipods, prom tickets, limo rides — the prizes offered at American one morning last week are meant to motivate 11th-graders into taking and doing well on the upcoming FCAT science exam. While the scores won’t affect their state graduation requirements, they will count, for the first time, toward school grades.

Now some South Florida educators find themselves trying to entice 16-year-olds — even if it borders on a bit of bribery. At Michael Krop Senior High, students who score Level 3 or higher on the the science FCAT will get to sport shorts to class.

”There are a lot of kids who don’t care because they know it doesn’t matter,” said Clifton Forbes, a junior at American.

That attitude is what concerns officials most.

What’s your take? Good idea or bad?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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11 Responses to Lawmaker wants to dump 11th grade science FCAT

  1. Kevin F. says:

    Tests are wonderful if used for evaluation tools. They are critical to measure students’ mastery of a subject and adjustment of a syllabus to ensure that concepts are being understood.

    This test is to evaluate the school, not the student. Trash the test. I’d like to see more time spent on teaching science and critical thinking rather than training students to pass a test.

    In a way, it does better prepare them for futures as pencil-pushing cubicle monkeys… if they are good enough to get those jobs.

  2. Kathy S says:

    Trading one test for another only raises more questions. Will the new test hold the students accountable (unlike the FCAT which only held the SCHOOL accountable)? Or since it is tied to a specific course is it really designed to hold the TEACHER accountable, while still carrying no repercussions for the student?
    Teachers spend more time and energy indulging the whims of the lawmakers at the expense of having time to take advantage of those “teachable moments” that do come up when a class is allowed to follow their own (guided) path of inquest. I question whether the lawmakers ever really know what the intent of their laws are other than just to look like they are doing something. If Florida rates an “A” for accountability, but our students continue to rank at or near the bottom in terms of national SAT and ACT scores then shouldn’t that send up a red flag?
    Sorry for the rant, but I have just been told that we are going to the seven period day and I will be losing FIVE WEEKS of contact time with my students per class per school year. Despite the fact that I am required to spend the first few minutes of each day going over FCAT questions. I’m trying to figure out when I’m actually supposed to teach chemistry. GGggggrrrr……

  3. Kathy S says:

    Here is the link for how the SAT/ACT scores for Florida compare to other states.
    http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2008/aug/13/report-act-scores-down-more-students-ready-college/

  4. PDC says:

    Wrestling with the standards as one of the members of the standards committee convinced me that end-of-course testing is the best way to assess high school science. There are just too many possible tracks for students to take for science at the high school level. Some emphasize biology, some physical sciences, some earth sciences. And of course it doesn’t make sense to have top flight future scientists taking the same test as students who are struggling with lower level earth science courses -either we bury the students whose goal it is to achieve science literacy or we don’t test the learning of the top students who may be planning for careers in science or engineering. We already do some end-of-course testing – Advanced Placement tests. And there have always been states like New York that relied on end-of-course testing at the high school level.

    So, strangely enough, I am supporting a legislative initiative taken by a Republican legislator on the subject of science education.

  5. Debra Walker says:

    A couple of comments as a school board member.

    While I don’t know the rationale for Rep. Mayfield’s bill (I think she took the seat of her husband Stan who recently died of cancer), I would be in favor of end of course exams for high school if it was consistently applied across the board to reading, math and writing. Giving FCATs in March drives instruction entirely too much, and encourages districts to start school earlier and earlier to get ahead of the game.

    Also, all districts tend to plan field trips at the end of the year after FCAT, in April and May. This often doesn’t fit the curriculum. End of course exams would put teachers in the drivers’ seat again.

    End of course exams should be given as finals no matter when the school year starts. There may be a problem with “test security” if the tests are given at different times, and the DOE may want to micromanage when we end school. That could be problematic as well.

    The best way to measure educational progress is beginning and end of year testing. Right now we compare last year’s FCAT score with this year’s, even though the content changes between grade levels. It’s statistically muddy to sort this into actual student learning gains. Two tests on the same material, given at beginning and end of course, is the best model for computing learning gains.

    Finally, end of course exams can be given for any grade level, not just 10th for reading and 11th for math. This maintains accountability for students.

    The problem, of course, is that students must be held accountable for their scores, yet we don’t get FCAT scores for a couple of months. IF they can build in computer scoring and quick turn arounds for the new exams, THEN it could work to hold students accountable.

  6. Eric Perlman says:

    By and large I agree with what is being said.

    The rubber will meet the road, however, in ensuring that various schools and districts meet the science standards. This could easily become a way for districts to get around the requirement to teach evolution as well as other things.

    So…if this bill is to become law, a way needs to be found to ensure that the standards are upheld. Otherwise, regardless of the fact that the FCAT is burdensome, we need to push to defeat the bill IMHO.

  7. S.Scott says:

    11th grade is a problem in itself. Kids don’t take all of their science courses at the same rate. Some are taking Earth Science when others are taking chemistry and others are taking biology, etc.

    Why couldn’t the FCAT be taken after the student completes a specific course? (that is-if they keep it)

  8. MaryB says:

    We already give EOC exams written for science using the NY Regents test banks to construct them. I helped put them together the first year and they directly address the standards. They are given at the End of the Year, not in march and are scanned in. we do give some essays a couple of weeks earlier so teachers have time to score them. The results of these tests are all being scanned into our district wide data base along with FCAT and other tests. I definitely prefer it because it is at the end of the year and school is not over after FCAT in March.

    Marion County

  9. David Campbell says:

    Please see my post at http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=887#comment-93217

    Eric-I have seen the draft test standards for the proposed biology EOC exam and the evolution standards are assessed. Districts that don’t teach those standards risk lower scores and a higher failure rate. We still need to be vigilant for the closet “teach the controversy” AKA “strengths and weaknesses” AKA “academic freedom” teachers who will try to undermine the teaching and the external groups who will try to browbeat teachers who actually teach the standards.
    Kathy-I sympathize. Next week I start two-three weeks of dedicated FCAT review with my International Baccalaureate eleventh grade students. It is time I can ill afford to lose but I need to review (read: reteach) the earth/space science they took three years ago and I need to teach a full semester of physical science physics that they never had because they were on an accelerated science track that skips that course. An end of course exam makes so much more sense…

  10. maltman says:

    Whatever testing vehicle is used, it is unfair to test on several subjects, e.g. biology, chemistry, space, etc., when students may not have taken all of those subject by 11th grade.
    I know my son had earth/space science in 6th grade and doesn’t plan to repeat it.
    Why are we testing facts that could/should be researched by any responsible professional and that were learned years earlier?
    What does that show?

  11. maltman says:

    I totally agree with PDC. There is too much diversity in ability and curricula to put all the students to the same test. It’s meaningless and trivial for some, challenging for some, and horrifying for the rest.
    And, it shows nothing that matters.

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