FCAT science concerns addressed slowly by Florida Department of Education

6:36 PM, Jun 6, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida-- E-mails between the top testing officials at Florida's Department of Education (FDOE) show just how the agency reacted to a professor's concerns about accuracy in FCAT testing materials.

As 10 News reported Tuesday, students' science FCAT scores sagged across the state and a Jacksonville professor indicated students could be unfairly penalized because the guidelines test-writers use to make the FCAT science were too vague.

In some cases, scientist Robert Krampf pointed out, the guidelines were factually inaccurate.

And while the FDOE eventually said it would correct many of his concerns in next year's guidelines, some of the first correspondances between state administrators discussed how to prevent Krampf from getting public documents.

"I think he will become very frustrated if we send him what we currently have," wrote Christopher Harvey, Math & Science Coordinator at the FDOE Test Development Center.

Other e-mails indicated some of the FCAT science multiple choice questions may, in fact, have been subjective, rather than objective.

And in crafting a response to Krampf's e-mails, one administrator suggested the potentially-subjective guidelines were still acceptable.

"The Science Item Specifications were available for nearly two years with no comments/concerns coming from Science educators.  The possibility of errors is still debatable among some members of Florida's Science community," wrote Test Development Center Executive Director Steven Ash to fellow FDOE administrators.

Sharon Koon, FDOE's Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Accountability Research and Measurement, responded to Ash that he shouldn't use the line regarding "possibility of errors is still debatable."

In an e-mail to 10 News Wednesday, the FDOE re-iterated that it was confident any mistakes or questionable questions never made it to the FCAT science tests:

"Items that are placed on FCAT 2.0 Science go through a rigorous process that begins with item development based on the Specifications but then proceeds through item reviews (including bias, sensitivity, and expert review), field testing, and then statistical reviews based on the field-test results.  Due to the theory-based nature of the content area, all potential science test items undergo an extra level of scrutiny.

Participants on the science expert review committee examine newly developed science test items to ensure the accuracy and currency of the science content. Participants include practicing scientists from the private sector and university-level science researchers and faculty.  During the review of field-test statistics, student responses are reviewed to ensure that there is no evidence of an item having multiple correct options, despite all of the reviews conducted prior to field testing.

If an item is found to have evidence of multiple correct options, it is discarded or revised and field tested again.  A more detailed description of this process can be found in the FCAT Handbook, Evidence of these quality control measures can be found by reviewing some of the FCAT Science tests that have been released in the past."

The FDOE says it is making the changes Krampf suggested and parent's shouldn't worry, especially since the FCAT science score doesn't count toward a school's grade or a student's ability to advance in school.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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