Archive for June, 2016

DOE: Just fudge the results; no one cares about science anyway

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

The Florida Department of Education released the results of statewide assessments yesterday. Unfortunately, there is a potential fib about the science results in the DOE’s news release:

Tallahassee, Fla., June 10 2016 – Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart today announced that Florida students are improving their performance on state assessments in Mathematics, English Language Arts, Science, Civics and U.S. History.

Did the science scores actually improve? Let’s look at the numbers. You can look up the results for yourself at the DOE results web page. Pay special attention to my extra notes in italics.

Biology End of Course
State Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
Spring 2015-2016: 64 (or is it 63? The District 2015 and 2016 Comparison Statewide Science and Biology 1 EOC Excel spreadsheet says it’s 64%, but the Biology 1 EOC Spring Administration State Summary PDF says it’s 63%. Which is right?)
Spring 2014-2015: 65
Spring 2013-2014: 68
Spring 2012-2013: 67
Spring 2011-2012: 59

5th Grade Science FCAT
State Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
2016: 51
2015: 53
2014: 54
2013: 53
2012: 52

8th Grade Science FCAT
State Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
2016: 50 (Biology 1 EOC is added to this score on the District 2015 and 2016 Comparison Statewide Science and Biology 1 EOC Excel spreadsheet. On the Statewide Science Assessment State and District Scores for All Curriculum Groups Grade 8 Excel spreadsheet — without the Biology EOC — it’s 48.)
2015: 48
2014: 49
2013: 47
2012: 47

So, the first line of the DOE’s news release says scores are improving in all subjects, including science. Yippee. The only rise for science was in 8th Grade Science FCAT scores … but wait a minute … did the rise actually happen?

Let’s read the end of the news release where a list of accomplishments is touted, including the one science bright spot:

Student results were up 1 percentage point in Grade 8 Science combined (Statewide Science Assessment and Biology 1).

eraseThe reality is that 8th Grade Science FCAT percentage passing was 48 in 2015 and 48 in 2016. There was no change. To wring something positive out of the science results, the DOE had to include 8th Grade Biology EOC results in the 2016 FCAT numbers. If you look back at the scores released in 2015, the DOE didn’t do that then! My assumption is that the DOE retroactively did that now with the sole purpose of finding an increase in science scores somewhere … anywhere!

OK, there was no outright lying here. Sure, the “combined” results did go up a percentage point (I have to assume that, because the EOC and FCAT “combined” score is not on the 2015 released documents). But it’s clear that a bit of creative sleight of hand happened when the initial, unaltered results didn’t match the DOE’s everything is improving narrative. I can imagine someone in charge ordering his/her staff to “find a way to make this look good … now!”

Great job, guys. You squeezed a one percentage point improvement ray of sunshine out of your ass. No one’s going to notice. Right? Instead of actually doing something about the dismal, stagnant results, just fudge the numbers.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, shows you how much Florida officials care about science education in this state.