TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Nearly three-quarters of Florida's fourth graders have failed the writing FCAT exam for 2012, prompting parents and school districts to question how the test is scored.
Twenty-seven percent of fourth graders received the required score of four or better on a scale of one to six. Just 33 percent of eighth graders passed, while 38-percent of tenth graders got a four or higher. In 2011, more than 80 percent of students received passing grades.
"Our students must know how to read and write," Governor Rick Scott said in a statement. "The significant contrast in this year's writing scores is an obvious indication the Department of Education needs to review the issue," Scott said.
Education Department officials have planned an emergency meeting Tuesday to decide whether to lower the score required to pass from four to 3.5.
Doing that would lower the 73 percent failure rate to 52 percent for fourth grade students.
Jennifer Egan of Valrico spent hours with her ten-year old son A.J. preparing for the exam.
After hearing about the low scores, she's concerned about changes the state made in grading the writing FCAT.
"Something's off," Egan said. "I know the kids practiced really hard. My son was doing well before the test," Egan said.
School district superintendents from around Florida have denounced the scoring, in some cases calling the entire writing FCAT unfair and subjective. Local school leaders are concerned about how much the low scores will impact the overall grades given to each school district.
The writing exam is widely regarded as the easiest of the FCAT tests, so many educators are worried that these low scores may be just the beginning of a series of disappointments when scores from reading and math are released later by the Department of Education.
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Parents and students have an opportunity to put a dent in the bottom line of their back-to-school shopping list by taking advantage of the Sales Tax Holiday which runs until midnight August 14.