From the Editor
More on the FCAT Flap
Anne Wujcik — Friday, May 25, 2012The Florida FCAT flap continues. Scores on the FL Writing Assessment (FCAT 2.0 version) dropped a lot this year and the state is scrambling to explain. To a large extent the score drop seems related to a difference in scoring this year's tests. FL returned to using two raters to score each piece of student writing and instructed scorers to grade more strictly. The level of concern on the part of parents seems to be related to a failure to communicate about the changes. The FL Department of Education now has set up a call center, websites and a designated email address that parents can use to get answers to their questions.
Florida moved to a new more demanding version of the FCAT this year, to match its transition to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. It would seem that the DOE did not initially prepare parents for the change. The department is now in high gear, reaching out through the media, getting organizations allied with the DOE (like the Florida Chamber) to submit letters to the editor and having the State Education Commissioner record on-hold phone messages. The goal is to inform (and ultimately sell) the public about the state's more rigorous assessments (FCAT 2.0) and the higher achievement levels students will be required to reach to be considered proficient. These are really the opening salvos for the transition to the "next generation" Common Core assessments. The public will need to know what to expect - what is changing, how those changes may affect student scores, and most of all why the changes are being made.
I see mounting evidence that the states are starting the process of informing the public. I've seem a dozen very similar stories this past month from newspapers all over the country - Portland, Kansas City, Madison, Fort Wayne - beginning to set the stage for the impending transition to the Common Core State Standards. The stories all include background on how the standards came into being, references to American students' competiveness on international tests, discussion of increased rigor and the way that classroom teaching will change to be sure the standards are addressed, a quick reference to the new assessments under development, delivered with attention to the local context.
It's a good beginning and I expect we will see more of this type of exposure moving forward. Local schools will also do their share as they begin the implementation of the CCSS, reaching out to parents to explain the new standards and how they differ from earlier state standards and what mastery looks like.
Project Tomorrow has released a short report that previews some of the Speak Up finding from teachers, librarians and administrators. The latest report, Personalizing the Classroom Experience - Teachers, Librarians and Administrators Connect the Dots with Digital Learning, and a related infographic, are available at: http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/SU11_PersonalizedClassroom_EducatorsReport.html.
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) released The Broadband Imperative: Recommendations to Address K-12 Education Infrastructure Needs (http://www.setda.org/web/guest/broadbandimperative). SETDA recommends that schools work toward a goal of an external connection to the Internet service provider of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2014-15 and of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2017-18. Schools will also need internal wide area network (WAN) connections from the district to each school and among schools within the district of at least 1 Gbps per 1,000 students/staff by 2014-15 and at least 10 Gbps per 1,000 students/staff by 2017-18.
While building out the broadband infrastructure is a lot like widening a busy highway - traffic quickly expands to fill the new space - at 100 Mbps schools will be able to provide the tools and resources students need to work effectively in the digital environment. The report also notes that it is important to ensure that students have that easy access to robust broadband connectivity outside of schools.
In 2010, a Federal Communications Commission survey of E-Rate funded schools found that nearly 80% of respondents reported that their broadband connections were inadequate to meet their current needs. There's a long way to go here and despite significant E-Rate investment, funding continues to be a serious problem.