Instead of Lowering Bar, How About Teaching Students To Write Correctly?

May 20, 2012 by

by Donna Garner

Let me see if I have this right:

(1) Florida has just seen a huge drop in the scores on its FCAT public school writing tests.

(2) This year Florida “toughened the way it grades the writing portion…placing increased emphasis on grammar, punctuation, spelling and the ability to use supporting details to make a logical argument.”

(3) When the scores showed a huge dip, the person in charge of performance accountability for the Palm Beach County School District quickly reassured the public by sending a memo to the media which stated, “ ‘The substantial decline…does not reflect a change in the quality of instruction nor in the writing proficiency of students.’ ”

Conclusion:  Obviously the scores on the FCAT fell across the state of Florida because students do not know grammar, punctuation, spelling, and expository/persuasive writing skills.  Denying this by telling parents that the decline in scores has nothing to do with the “quality of instruction nor in the writing proficiency of students” is a ludicrous statement.

I tend to doubt that the FCAT is the problem.  It does not take a rocket scientist to make up grammar, usage, and spelling questions that require right or wrong answers. Either the sentence is written correctly or it is not.

It also does not take a rocket scientist to test students to see if they can read an expository selection and then write an expository/persuasive reply.

Plain and simple: Florida teachers have got to learn grammar/punctuation/spelling and expository/persuasive writing skills first before they can teach these writing skills to their students.

Lowering the bar on the scoring of the FCAT will only hide the fact that Florida public school students lack basic writing skills; and it is this lack of English writing proficiency that is driving parents, college professors, and the business world to distraction.

Unfortunately, an emphasis on techie devices in the schools (iPhones, iPads, SmartPhones, Kindle, texting, etc.) is further driving down students’ correct writing skills.

The Florida Department of Education and State Board of Education members did the right thing to up the expectations for students’ writing skills this year. Now they need to make sure teachers know the basic writing skills themselves.

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

P. S.  Update:  Sadly, on May 15, 2012, the Florida State Board of Education decided to lower the bar on the FCAT Writing Tests. Will lowering the bar which hides the problem of poor grammar/usage/spelling/expository/persuasive writing skills among Florida students help to remedy the situation, or will lowering the bar take the pressure off Florida public school teachers to improve their own skills so that they can help their students improve theirs?

http://www.pnj.com/article/20120516/NEWS01/305160025/State-lowers-bar-FCAT-writing-scores-maintain-2011-failure-rate

State lowers bar on FCAT writing scores to maintain 2011 failure rate

Many students who failed test will get a pass

12:02 AM, May. 16, 2012  |

Excerpts from this article:

Last year, 81 percent of fourth-graders passed the writing test, but the preliminary results showed that would drop to 27 percent. The emergency rule will keep it at 81 percent.

The rule will result in 77 percent of eighth graders passing compared with 82 percent last year. Without the rule, only 33 percent would have passed.

For 10th graders, it will increase the passing rate from 38 percent to 84 percent. Last year it was 80 percent.

=====================

5.14.12

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/huge-drop-in-fcat-writing-scores-leaves-state-2355818.html

 

Excerpts from this article:

 

Huge drop in FCAT writing scores leaves state reevaluating way to grade schools

By ALLISON ROSS-FERRELLI

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 9:27 p.m. Monday, May 14, 2012

Posted: 5:18 p.m. Monday, May 14, 2012

 

A dramatic dive in student scores on this year’s writing FCAT has the state scrambling to figure out how to keep schools’ all-important A-to-F grades from plummeting.

 

One option the State Board of Education is expected to consider Tuesday : lowering the bar.

 

Preliminary results from the 2012 standardized writing test show that only 27 percent of fourth-graders statewide received a passing score of 4 or higher, compared to 81 percent in 2011. Similar results were seen in grades eight and 10, the other two grades that take the writing FCAT.

 

The state this year toughened the way it grades the writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, placing increased emphasis on grammar, punctuation, spelling and the ability to use supporting details to make a logical argument.

 

…The state Department of Education said it believes the decline in scores is likely attributed to some of these changes, said Marc Baron, chief of performance accountability for the Palm Beach County School District.

 

Still, he said, “the magnitude of this decline is unprecedented and unexpected.”

 

“The substantial decline … does not reflect a change in the quality of instruction nor in the writing proficiency of students,” Baron wrote in a memo released to the media.

 

Today, the State Board of Education scheduled an emergency meeting for Tuesday morning to discuss the possibility of reducing the test’s passing grade. The Florida Department of Education is advocating the proficiency threshold be reduced from a 4 to a 3.5 for school-grading purposes.

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