Thursday, May 31, 2007

House Democratic Caucus Letter to Chrlie Crist

The House Democratic Caucus sent a letter to Charlie Crist expressing their concerns about the FCAT. 204,000 tests are being regraded because of errors in the FCAT system.

Below is the letter.

The Honorable Charlie Crist
PL-05 The Captial
400 South Monroe St.

Dear Governor Crist:

Last week's troubling news about the scoring of third grade reading portion of the 2006 Florida Comprehensive Assestment Test has shaken the confidence of parents, school officials and state political leaders as to the test's reliability.

While we commend the Department of Education for disclosing the mistake and taking action to help avoid similar problems on future FCATs, the House Democratic Caucus believes more needs to be done to restore confidence in public school accountability. It concerns us, however, that it took the DOE a year to discover the scoring discrepancies after questions were initially raised.

House Democrats believe that nothing short of a major overhaul of the current FCAT-based accountability system needs to take place by next year. In the interim, here are some things that we believe are needed to begin getting a clear assessment of where things stand today.

* A complete audit of all FCAT results since the test was implemented in 2000, not just rescoring of the 2006 test. The audit should be performed by an independent organization that Republican and Democratic leadersin the Legislature can support.

* An analysis of other ways mistakes could be made, not just using inadequate anchor questions, which could lead to skewed test scores resulting in children being inappropriately promoted or retained.

* An analysis of the impact of the 2006 third grade reading test's errors on: students who should have been retained under the state's mandatory retention law but were not; the distribution of school recognition money; compliance with the Adequate Yearly Progress provision in the No Child Left Behind Act; compliance and distribution of federal dollars to Title I schools; teacher merit pay; and supplemental academic instruction funds.

* A comprehensive look at the longitudinal and latitudinal impacts of the scoring error on all grade levels

* An assessment of whether any laws were broken by promoting children to the fourth grade who otherwise would have been retained in the third grade because of the mandotory retention law.

* An analysis of how children performed in the fourth grade this year who otherwise would have been retained in the third grade under the mandatory retention law had the 2006 FCAT been scored correctly.

Again, we believe these are matters that need addressing to begin a comprehensive assessment of accountability reform. We must start that process now, with your help and that of Republican leaders in the House and Senate, if we hope to restore confidence in public school accountability.

It should be the highest priority for Florida political leaders to make certain that our children receive the highest quality and most reliable public school education available. Time is of the essence.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, District 109

Rep. Shelley Vana, District 85

Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, District 69

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