There’s long been a gap between how students fare on state exams and how they do on national tests. But as state-based exams and national assessments re-align to meet new common core standards adopted in a majority of states, education reformers see an opportunity to also get some parity when it comes what students know.
The national arm of former Governor Jeb Bush’s education policy groups wants Florida officials to aim high when it comes to setting passage scores for the state’s new Florida Standards Assessment. The Foundation for Excellence in Education wants to close the 20-plus point difference between how students fared on the former FCAT test, versus the National Assessment for Educational Progress.
“We want to be sure when parents, schools, educators, policy makers and the public get test sores back, that there’s not one test telling us that students across the state are ready to go on to the next grade or college or careers, and another test, with completely different information, telling us they are not," says the Foundation's Senior Policy Fellow Christy Hovanetz.
The Foundation uses data from Florida’s old FCAT Exam and NAEP, to show the difference in what the state considers a proficient score, and what national exams consider proficient. Hovanetz says Florida has improved the proficiency gap as its raised cut-off scores in the run-up to the new Florida Standards Assessment, but discrepencies linger.
“If you look at the gap between NAEP proficiency and regular FCAT proficiency, that gap was much wider than what we see today with NAEP proficiency and FCAT 2.0 proficiency.”
The FSA is undergoing a study to determine whether it’s a valid measure of student ability—it should be done by September. Once completed, Florida will determine what the appropriate cutoff scores are for student proficiency on the exam, with school and district grades to follow.