The Palm Beach Post reports that the Florida Board of Education has approved a minimum passing score on the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam that would have resulted in 46% of last year’s test-takers receiving a failing grade.
The Board’s approval of the Algebra 1 EOC cut score came during a conference call meeting in which new cut scores for the math and language arts FCAT’s were also approved. The most controversial decision made during the meeting involved the 10th grade reading test. The Board adopted the recommendation of Commissioner Robinson to make the passing score two scale points higher than recommended by two committees of educators and community members. While two scale points sounds like a small amount, it would have resulted in 15,000 more Florida 10th graders failing the test last year.
The philosophy behind setting scores at levels that result in catastrophic failure rates, as has been done with the Algebra 1 test, is that schools will rise to the challenge and successfully push their students to better achievement. However, given the severe shortage of strong math teachers and the lack of interest so far demonstrated in Florida to meaningfully address that shortage, wishing for higher math achievement levels may just be equivalent to believing in the Tooth Fairy.