The 2008 FCAT reading scores for third graders have just recently been released. FCAT is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test that all Florida students must eventually take. It is how the development of the child and ultimately school the child attends is measured in Florida.
"In 2008, 72 percent of all students in Grade 3 were performing at or above Achievement Level 3 (on grade level and above) on FCAT Reading. This represents an increase from 57 percent in 2001, 60 percent in 2002, 63 percent in 2003, 66 percent in 2004, 67 percent in 2005, a decrease from 75 percent in 2006, and an increase from 69 percent in 2007 for a total increase of 15 percentage points since 2001. In 2008, 16 percent of all students in Grade 3 were performing at Achievement Level 1 on FCAT Reading. This represents a decrease from 29 percent in 2001, 27 percent in 2002, 23 percent in 2003, 22 percent in 2004, 20 percent in 2005, an increase from 14 percent in 2006, and a decrease from 19 percent in 2007 for a total decrease of 13 percentage points since 2001."
There is a handy graphical representation you can check out here.
So what does this mean? Well…it means that we reached a high and then started dropping again for the level 3s. That’s not such a good thing. In 2006 we had 75% of all students scoring at or above level 3 and this year we only have 72%. Of course the officials are excited because we are up from last years 69% but to my mind it isn’t good enough if we aren’t surpassing previous results. At least that’s the way the numbers look, right?
Here’s the thing about those scores that I never see anyone talking about. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. The scores from 2006 are from entirely different children than the scores from 2008. For all we know about the students in 2006 there was a large number of gifted students and maybe in 2008 there was a larger number of students who were…not as gifted.
That is one of the problems with FCAT. Don’t get me wrong, there is a way to check individual progress but that isn’t the stuff you hear about in the news usually. Just a mass "third grade scores up/down this year". I guess that’s one of the problems I have with standardized tests. Another problem I have with FCAT as well as the national No Child Left Behind program is that it assumes that all children are capable of being ‘on grade level’. This is simply not the case. I know there are some allowances made for students who have a learning disability but there are none for students who are just below average.
While I don’t personally see anything wrong with being ‘below average’ apparently a lot of parents do and so does the government. It seems as though in an effort to show everyone can achieve, standards are and have been lowered over the years to make it easier for students to be ‘average’. Unfortunately this means those students who are ‘above average’ are often not getting the type of stimulation they need.
After teaching in Florida for the past seven years I still can’t decide if I hate FCAT or if I merely dislike it. If you are in Florida what do you think of FCAT? If you are in another state how do you like the standardized test given there?
Cat with Books Photo Credit: Petteri Sulonen from Flickr, Creative Commons License