FCAT Writing Scores' Steep Dip Prompts Concern

Educators have proposed reducing the FCAT writing passing score to increase passing rates. A discussion is scheduled for Tuesday morning.


Less than 30 percent of fourth graders in Florida passed the FCAT writing test this year, according to preliminary results released on Monday, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times today.

That's a steep dip compared to last year when 81 percent scored a passing 4.0 or better.

The plummeting scores have prompted extreme concern among educators and state officials. On Monday, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson proposed reducing the FCAT writing passing score from 4.0 to 3.5. Under that standard, 48 percent of fourth-graders would have passed the test with a 3.5 or better, along with 52 percent of eighth-graders and 60 percent of 10th-graders, according to the Times story.

Florida education officials will hold an emergency conference call this morning at 10:30am regarding the scores. The public is invited to listen via phone by calling: 1 (866) 304-6786 and entering the conference ID of 815-966-41.

This year's test was more rigorous including more reductions given for misspellings and more stringent grading on punctuation and grammar.

Some say that may have contributed to the lower scores. Others, however, maintain the tougher evaluation is needed to prepare for Florida joining the coalition of states moving toward more rigorous standards, the Times reported.

What do you think? Take our poll to weigh in.

Sherri Lonon May 15, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Do you think spelling, grammar and punctuation are still important in this age of computers and spell check? How do you think your child's school does in teaching these skills?
metoo May 15, 2012 at 01:50 PM
DOE needs to go. Give the power to the teachers and principals. I am ready to just pull my kids from the fiasco of the FLDOE school system. The only thing my kindergartner is learning is what will be on his 1st. grade SAT and eventual FCAT.
Sandsman101 May 15, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Since we get e-mails from the Principal that use poor grammar, include mispelled or are missing words, and use incorrect punctuation, I am not surprised. Our kids have become used to auto-correct on their cell phones and computers, or use text slang to communicate. Ironically, my older son got a 6 last year on his 10th grade FCAT Writes, and I would consider his writing skills to be embarassing. We are definitely going in the wrong direction. We need to stop teaching how to pass these tests and just start teaching the basics that will get them to pass them all on their own.
Laura May 15, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Rediculous! These kids are being held to the standard of a neatly typed error free organized layout while they have to handwrite their paper. I'd like to see the people inventing this test sit down in a full classroom and be provided a subject for which they have no time to prepare and handwrite a perfectly error free organized paper with well thought out content in the little time these kids are provided. Get real! Jobs don't even expect this! Furthermore, colleges don't even expect this. In the past, handwritten papers did not have the same expectations! If the expectations are increased then increase the technology and resources available. Any educated person would need to utilize a computer to produce this level of quality. Educators hear this: Get real! Don't give our children stone age tools and expect them to produce the paper of the future. Moreover, I can't beleive that according to this article, a serious solution is to reduce the passing score!! Unbelievable, these handwritten tests should never have been graded with that high standard in the first place. I got a solution: Regrade these handwritten tests under the previous and handwritten expectations. Then try your computer typed expectations next year when the children have a computer to use! .
Laura May 15, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I have a bit more to add: These educators are expecting a Final Draft when these children are working on the Rough Draft! Whatever happened to the writing process?
rsvolley May 15, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I am not trying to be a jerk, but in two previous posts, there were misspelled words. It is no wonder that our children do not know how to spell, or speak properly today. People on television, radio, and in our everyday lives, do not use proper spelling and grammar. I see examples of it everyday, even on news programs, and in print. How can we expect young people to speak and spell properly, when we set poor examples due to laziness, or ignorance?
Laura May 15, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Delete Laura 1:19 pm on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 I must say, I see your point. Check your own punctuation. There is no need to place a coma before the word "and" or the word "or" when making a list. Interestingly, this error was made several times and apparently was not corrected as if it was intended. I guess you've contributed to the poor examples (not by laziness but the latter) lol. Just be thankful your post wasn't graded :) Not intended as meanness, but rather to make a point. There is nothing wrong with having expectations and setting examples, but these expectations need to be reasonable. Handwritten papers require many rough drafts to acheive a final draft without error. This was always a part of the writing process. Even when using a computer to write a paper, a rough draft will be the first step. These children are not being given adequate equipment and time for the writing process to meet the expectations in place. Understand, I am not saying that the expectations shouldn't be there, they just need to be with the right equipment and time. Maybe two sessions to develop their writing would be helpful. I would just like to add, instead of name calling and/or insulting our children and commenters, please understand no one is perfect not even you :)
rsvolley May 15, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Laura, you are much too sensitive. This was not intended to be mean, but just stating fact. I appreciate your critique of my response. You are correct in stating that the commas are unnecessary, but they are also not incorrect. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm
Laura May 15, 2012 at 07:04 PM
lol...I'm too sensitive but you feel the need to support your documentation? I never felt your post was intended towards me...and I guess I'm being lazy and a poor example texting sloppy with my phone...have a good day
Kia Flowers May 16, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are ALWAYS important, even in the technology age. There are many nuances of the written language that the computer does not correct.
Sherri Lonon May 16, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Thanks everyone for the great comments! Do any of the teachers or parents out there feel like these skills have had less of a focus placed on them in recent years? I know, for example, spelling tests were not on the agenda at the elementary school my daughter attended. Poor grammar was also frequently glossed over in her reports (until they landed in my hands). Anyone else noticing these things? If so, any ideas as to why?
Carol Dell May 16, 2012 at 01:27 AM
The low writing scores don't stun me, but do upset me tremendously! Until renewed emphasis is placed on grammar, usage, punctuation, capitalization and spelling in the public schools, the students can't be expected to score well on writing assessments. Standards should not be lowered, but instead the schools should teach a curriculum that would enable the students to pass all the tests, including the writing ones. As a foot note, I think it is sad that today's elementary students are not proficient in cursive writing. Some students may have very limited instruction in cursive, but not to the level that they are able to read it........they can't read important documents such as the Declaration of Independence, or even letters from their grandparents. Carol Dell
Sherri Lonon May 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Carol you make an excellent point. Cursive is not taught in many public schools and that does block access to the ability to read our own country's source documents. Children who cannot read the originals will have to rely on reprints. Does this bother anyone?
chayask May 16, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I have two comments that might make a point in how important grammar and punctuation are: Grammar is the difference between knowing your s&*t and knowing you're s&*t. 'Let's eat Grandma!' or, 'Let's eat, Grandma!" These are two examples of what will not be caught by spell check and why we should not be relying on them. Students DO need to be taught grammar, punctuation, and spelling; they ARE important skills.


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