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Higher Cut Scores
Tracey Van Hook9/23/2015Dear FLDOE, It is critical to set higher proficiency cut scores so every student is prepared for college, a good job or successful military career!
Mark Maxwell9/23/2015Dear State Board of Ed, I implore you to set higher proficiency cut scores so every student is prepared for their future. Florida needs to have proficiency cut scores that equal or exceed the Nation's report card.
John Brunner9/23/2015To Whom It May Concern,

Please either:
1. set higher proficiency cut scores so every student is prepared for college, a good job or successful military career or
2. Eliminate the FSA/AIR and opt for a Nationally Normed test.

Or better yet, it sure would be a better way to go if you left testing up to the individual districts to have an option between FSA or a nationally normed assessment.

Thank you for your consideration.
John Padget9/17/2015Op-Ed: "Cold Shower Now -- Higher Wages Later"
Mark Wilson9/25/2015Dear Commissioner Stewart:

As President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which serves as the voice of job creators all over Florida, I urge you to set Florida’s proficiency “cut scores” on the Florida Standards Assessment to align with the proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). On many occasions you have shared your professional opinion on why it is essential to provide accurate assessments and transparent data to students, parents, taxpayers and employers. Your pending decision on “cut scores” provides an outstanding opportunity for Florida to continue on the path of making Florida’s students the best prepared in America.
Every year, one of the top issues identified by chamber members is to continually close the gap between our educational outcomes and the needs of Florida’s employers. Too often, Florida’s employers have difficulty finding and hiring qualified talent. And, as I’ve discussed with you, our Governor, each Cabinet member, and dozens of lawmakers, one of the most vital keys to improving our talent pipeline in Florida is through Florida’s pre-k-12 education system. We need to ensure our students are not only successfully graduating from high school, but they are doing so based upon honest indicators they have actually achieved proficiency in math and English language arts. As I’ve said hundreds of times, talent is quickly replacing the tax incentive as the most important tool in economic development and honesty in Florida’s cut scores is essential to position Florida for future economic diversity.
The current gap between the proficiency data that Florida reports and the nationally recognized proficiency data reported by NAEP is still too broad and we can, and should, do better. We must do right by the students, parents, and businesses in Florida and benchmark ourselves to the one standard that provides truth in advertising about our students’ performance. Whether we like the results or not doesn’t matter. As I’ve learned from you and your experiences, calling it like it is ensures that all stakeholders have the ability to align our resources toward creating opportunity for our students.
Thank you for your leadership and for the work you are doing to equip Florida students with knowledge and skills to create future prosperity for millions of Floridians. Florida’s business community stands ready to assist you in making Florida the most competitive state in America.

My best,
Mark Wilson
President and CEO
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Margaret Griffin10/7/2015I want our students in Collier County to know where each stands on education proficiency. Let's raise the proficiency cut score and keep Florida moving in a direction that shines a true light on student learning. The students deserve our best. Let's help as much as we can
Judy Varty10/8/2015We are doing a disservice to our students by leading them to think they are proficient in subjects, when in fact they are way behind their peers. They will discover this too late in the game when this becomes evident in college, and the challenge of catching up is all too great, and they drop out. RAISE THE PROFICIENCY BAR NOW!!!
Eileen Castle10/8/2015Please set proficiency scores that indicate FL students are really ready for college &/or a career. When proficiency scores are set low, FL students are not college/career ready. It discourages students when they have to take remedial courses before they can take college level courses. Plus, it also decreases students' chances of graduating from college and increases the financial cost of college.

How can FL compete in the 21st century's global economy without a competent work force?
Erika Donalds10/20/2015
Guest commentary: Urge Florida education staff to set accurate test-passing bar
Florida has made substantial progress in academic achievement since accountability reforms began 16 years ago. In 1999, nearly half of Florida’s third graders could not read and Florida’s graduation rate was barely above 50 percent.

Now, our graduation rate is at an all-time high. We are third in the nation in the number of students who take Advanced Placement coursework. And we’ve cut in half the number of third graders who cannot read.

With the help of our amazing teachers, Florida has done this by challenging schools to do a better job and raising the expectations for which our students strive. Our state requires every student’s performance to be evaluated using objective measures; we encourage parents and citizens to hold their districts accountable through school and district grades; and we incentivize teachers by measuring students’ annual learning gains.

But we still have work to do. Our statewide exams are under intense scrutiny, the school grading system needs improvement, and teaching-to-the-test has become a major concern. Right now, Florida is on the verge of a big decision that will either set higher, honest expectations for our children or continue to mask failure.

I am talking about something called a proficiency “cut score.” A cut score is the line drawn on our state exam, the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), to show whether a child is proficient in a subject. This is important because no matter how great our standards or our tests, if we set a low passing bar, we are not helping our students.

Is it honest to set cut scores low, so students are passed along without being fully prepared and more adults can congratulate themselves for a job well done? As a parent and School Board member, I say no.

In 2013, Florida reported that approximately 60 percent of fourth graders were “proficient” in reading, yet in the same year on the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP), only 39 percent of our fourth graders were deemed “proficient” readers. This means about 21 percent of Florida’s fourth grade students believed they were proficient readers when they were not. That’s tens of thousands of students who will find out later in life they are unprepared when they cannot quality for the military or must take remedial courses in college.

We tell our children to dream big, because they can achieve anything they set their minds to. Being 100 percent honest with them about how they are faring academically is critical if we truly want to help them reach their goals. If a child needs help in a subject, let’s tell them sooner rather than later.

While we can celebrate how far we’ve come, still only 19 percent of 2014 ACT-tested high school graduates were college ready in all four benchmarks. In 2012, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting stated that 54 percent of Florida’s college freshmen who take a placement exam require remedial courses, versus about 40 percent nationwide.

The state of Florida must raise the bar, and increase its cut scores closer to those aligned with NAEP, so that parents and students have consistent and honest information. If we truly want to ensure their “college and career readiness,” this is the most important thing the state can do.

The state of Georgia, which actually had the worst proficiency gap in the country (ranging between 45-65 points), raised its cut scores on the new Georgia Milestones test to virtually eliminate the state’s gap.

We should continue pressing forward and make Florida No. 1 in the country by not only having high proficiency expectations on our state test, but by empowering parents and students with the correct information about their child’s progress, and the tools to help them meet their academic goals.

As parents and responsible citizens, we are kidding ourselves if we believe that lowering the bar, or turning a blind eye to the competition they will face nationally and internationally, will help our children meet the challenges and opportunities that await them.

Our students deserve better. They deserve honest, high expectations that I know they are capable of achieving. Will test scores possibly drop? Sure, but that should be nothing to fear if we care about our students’ futures. I would prefer a truthful, lower score to a higher, cushioned score. Tell me now if I need to intervene to help my child.

It is not too late to do the right thing. Please join me in emailing the Florida Department of Education at, and encourage Florida to continue the progress being made. Let’s raise the proficiency cut score and keep Florida moving in a direction that shines a true light on student learning.

__ Erika Donalds is a mother of three school-age children, a Certified Public Accountant, and a Collier County School Board member for District 3. Contact:
Shawn R. Frost10/25/2015
I'm an elected School Board Member in Indian River County and recently published the following guest column in the Press Journal. Thank you for your attention and consideration.

As a U.S. Marine I became familiar with many acronyms and one particular comes to mind when it comes to communication on assessments; B.L.U.F.

When time is of the essence and communication is the difference between victory and ruin Marines use B.L.U.F. which stands for Bottom Line Up Front. An honest appraisal is preferable to flowery prose. Hearing “200 enemy, we are down to 20, we are about to be over-run” allows Marines to take corrective action to save the 20 Marines and assets on hand. B.L.U.F. is counter-intuitive because it is pronounced “bluff” which means to provide false information (inspiring hope).

As a former teacher at SRHS and as a father to two teenagers I became acquainted with the term “Keep it 100”. It means keeping a 100 percent authenticity level. When it comes to grades on standardized tests, schools, and districts, when compared to national competitors we are NOT keeping it 100, we are at best “keeping it 80” because when compared with the national gold standard of proficiency (the NAEP) we’re telling roughly 20 percent of students they are proficient when they are in fact not. We are bluffing when we need to use B.L.U.F. and put the Bottom Line Up Front by setting honest proficiency cut scores.

A proficiency cut score is line that is drawn on a state test at which a student is considered "passing" -- no matter how great your standards or your test, if you set a low passing score, you are not being honest with students about how well prepared they are for the next grade or the next step in life. This is why only 19% of Floridians who took the ACT in 2014 were college ready in all four areas and why 65,000 Florida freshmen entering 2 year colleges require remediation.
The good news is that Florida has adopted a long-term education strategy of steadily raising academic standards and increasing test difficulty that is paying off for our children. The trend is mostly positive.
But Florida’s current proficiency expectations (the line we draw on our state test) are still too low and the consequences are clear. Far too many students are still graduating unprepared, spending tens of thousands on remediation in college for knowledge they should have gained in high school or failing college entrance exams. Others find they are unprepared when they don’t qualify for the military or can’t get that first job.

The US Chamber gave Florida a C for its “truth in advertising.” Regarding the honest comparison of Florida’s proficiency scores with the proficiency score of the national average. We can do better.

Right now, we have opportunity to continue forward momentum by once again raising proficiency “cut scores” so students gain the knowledge required for entering college or beginning a meaningful career in a technical field.

Many states, like our neighbors in Georgia just recently, are taking bold steps to eliminate their proficiency gaps. Let’s follow their lead and make Florida number one in the country on having high proficiency expectations on our state test.

Most importantly, let’s be honest with parents about how prepared their children are for what’s next, while there is still time to intervene and get them the resources they need. Respect them enough to use B.L.U.F. and keep it 100 rather than bluffing them and their children into failure. Together we can turn this around.

Join me in emailing, and ask Florida to set higher proficiency cut scores.
Shawn R. Frost is the Vice President of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members and a member of the Indian River County School Board.
Colleen M. Castille11/4/2015Dear Florida Education Board members,

I want to share with you that I have spent the better part of my State of Florida career improving the state of education in our state. I worked under Frank Brogan when we first established a meaningful curriculum and test schedule. Following that I worked under Governor Jeb Bush to establish even higher standards and ensure that the lowest performing students were given the most resources to succeed. It was very difficult from a political perspective.

But it is what our students and our school system needed. If the teachers and the districts will follow the path of the curriculum the results will follow on the tests.

Please do not turn Florida backwards by 20 years. Keep the cut scores hight.
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