Why Florida’s High School End of Course Exam Regime May Cause a New Surge in Drop Outs

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November 11, 2012

By: Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

Looking to curry favor with skeptical voters, Rick Scott’s been going around telling everybody that there won’t be any new tests for a while. He’s right, but the decision was in place before he became governor. In Florida high schools, the transition away from FCAT to course specific end-of-course exams was made during Charlie Crist’s governorship. Kids entering high school this year will be  required to pass  Algebra I, Biology, and  Geometry. Civics and United States History will have end-of-course exams, too, but they will not be graduation requirement. . Orlando Sentinel reporter Leslie Postal takes a look at where we are now:

The passing rate on Florida’s new biology and geometry exams — now must-pass tests for a high school diploma — would be under 60 percent if a proposed scoring system is adopted.

That would put success on the state’s newest end-of-course exams on par with its algebra 1 exam, which 58 percent of students passed last spring.

Local educators fear in coming years that thousands of high school students will fail one or more of the exams and then need remedial lessons before they retake and, hopefully, pass them ahead of their scheduled graduation.

Florida educators are working this fall to set passing scores for the biology and geometry tests, which were introduced to make sure students mastered key high school subjects.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is to make score recommendations to the State Board of Education, which has final say, before its Dec. 12 meeting.

So far, two panels made up of teachers, professors, business leaders and school board members have made suggestions.

The second panel, whose work is likely closer to what will be the final recommendation, suggested setting the biology and geometry scoring systems so that, based on this year’s data, the passing rates would be 53 percent on geometry and 59 percent on biology.

If those are adopted, Seminole County, where test scores routinely lead the state, could soon have a “backlog” of 5,000 students who haven’t passed some or all of the new exams, said Deborah Camilleri, coordinator of assessment and accountability.

“It will have a cumulative effect and impact on students who are trying to graduate from high school,” she said.

And high schools, she added, will be stretched thin trying to get them all into summer classes or other remedial programs to help them pass re-take exams.

Educators have long been questioning the wisdom of requiring passage of Algebra – let alone Geometry – with so many kids struggling with basic math when they arrive in high school. Elementary school kids are now seeing Algebra to the horror of countless parents. With 42 percent of kids failing the Algebra exam last year, its disturbing to realize these kids still have to pass Geometry, too.

Entire article: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/why-floridas-high-school-end-of-course-exam-regime-may-cause-a-new-surge-in-drop-outs/

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