Scientist questions accuracy of FCAT science test

11:25 PM, Jun 5, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa Bay, Florida - With only 51 percent of Florida 5th-graders passing the FCAT's science test and only 46 percent of 8th-graders passing, a Jacksonville scientist is raising questions about the accuracy of the test, as well as the Florida Department of Education's willingness to prevent mistakes.

Robert Krampf, a Jacksonville educator who goes by, "The Happy Scientist," recently questioned the FDOE about the guidelines test-writers use to make FCAT science questions.

"I found horrible scientific errors," Krampf said of the Grade 5 FCAT 2.0 Science Test Item Specifications.

The errors are detailed in a blog post he wrote on his Happy Scientist webpage.

Inaccuracies included defining "Germination" as "... the process by which plants begin to grow from seed to spore," which isn't possible.

He also found old multiple-choice questions that had more than one plausible answer.

In emails obtained by 10 News, the state's top testing officials told Krampf that 5th graders shouldn't know the "wrong" answers were plausable and the state "cannot assume (kids) would receive instruction beyond what the benchmark states."

In otherwords, it's OK to penalize a kid for knowing too much.

Despite the monumental gravity of the FCAT, there's no telling how many other mistakes may be on it since the state won't reveal questions so it can re-use them from year-to-year.

"Items are reused each year in an effort to conserve costs," Sharon Koon, FDOE's Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Accountability Research and Measurement, wrote Krampf in an email. "It costs $1,800-$2,000 to develop and try out each item. In order to have enough items that meet the criteria for use on a test, the Department must initially develop twice the number of items needed."

The Department of Education eventually said it would fix its Science guidelines, but maintains the accuracy of the FCAT since the test-building process is a multiple-year effort with numerous checks & balances.

Krampf says the public needs to fact-check the FCAT.

"The public should be able to review that test," said Krampf.

The science FCAT scores, released Tuesday, were not very good this year across Florida, but they don't factor into school grades or individual promotions. Only the math and reading scores impact those.

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