The Florida State Board of Education and the Florida Legislature will soon receive a recommendation from Commissioner Pam Stewart setting the passing scores for the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) tests taken by all Florida students last spring.
Her recommendation will be the culmination of professional advice given to her by panels of educators and other experts who make the judgments as to whether our students are on track to be “college or career” ready. In other words, what should students know and be able to do at each grade level?
Let me put this process in context: For more than a decade, Florida has been raising the bar for its students. Antiquated standards and assessments resulted in Florida’s high school graduates not being ready to compete on the national and world stages with the “best in class.” Using a sports analogy, AcademicTeamFlorida wasn’t even in the same league as TeamMassachusetts, or teams fielded by countries such as Singapore, and Finland. Yet, Florida’s employers and businesses are forced to compete every day against the rest of the world. How can our businesses compete and win unless they have a superior stream of talent from our schools?
Floridians understand the problem and we are on the path to raise the bar again. Step 1 was to set the new Florida Standards; Step 2 was the new FSA assessments that replaced the old FCAT. Step 3 is to set the passing score for each exam at each grade level.
We are almost finished.
The panels of educators and other experts advising the commissioner could have gone in two directions: If the panels recommended higher passing scores, students will get a “cold shower” now, but ultimately be better prepared for success and ready to join AcademicTeamFlorida and compete anytime, anywhere for the rest of their lives. If the panels recommended low passing scores, more students would pass but not be ready to meet the global competition. The panels recommended the latter. This is not “truth in advertising.”
How honest Florida will be about student achievement is still in question. Will we prepare our students to join AcademicTeamFlorida, enabling them to compete against AcademicTeamMassachusetts and others from around the world? There is still time to seize this opportunity for our children’s futures.
I will vote for raising the bar as high as possible. Let’s take the cold shower now and enable our graduates to make higher wages later.
John Padget is vice-chair of Florida’s State Board of Education.