Florida Department of Education released the FCAT writing scores a day ago, and school districts throughout Florida are searching for answers for why the writing scores were significantly lower than last year. In fact so low that only about 1/3 of students who took the FCAT would have passed. Why the dramatic change in scores? Several possible reasons follow:
- A new set of standards for how Florida Department of Education measures students’ progress was made in the middle of the school year.
- Two individuals grade the FCAT now versus one.
- School districts stated that teachers did not have enough time to prepare the students for the new writing FCAT standards.
The Florida Board of Education held an emergency meeting on May 15th, and voted to lower the passing score from 4.0 to 3.0. This will bring the passing scores for this year close to the 80 percent or more from last years scores.
I have a difficult time with standards being lowered whether it’s for testing purposes or individual courses. I believe we have to ask ourselves how writing is being taught to the students. When school districts complain that there was not sufficient time for teachers to provide instruction for the writing component of FCAT we are back to teaching for the test.
During my teacher training workshops I promote the use of reflective journaling in all science classes K-12. One of the first questions I ask teachers during my training is how many of them implement some type of science notebook in their class. Very few of the teachers raise their hands. In other-words, students are not being given the opportunity to write in science. Teachers really enjoy and learn a great deal from the journaling aspect of the teacher trainings I conduct, and many participants state that they will begin implementing journaling in the science classroom after the training.
Daily journaling in the science classroom allows the student to reflect upon what they have learned. The reflective journal is not your traditional student notebook with “ditto sheets” and lab sheets attached. Instead it consists primarily of the individual students ideas, thoughts etc.. My suggestion to all the Florida school superintendents and principals is to encourage teachers to implement reflective journaling in all science classes throughout the entire year. Reflective journaling allows students to develop and strengthen their inquiry skills, critical thinking skills, and writing skills.
For more detailed information about the low FCAT writing scores see the following article in Orlando Sentinel
The photos below are from a recent Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teacher training workshop I conducted.