FCAT graders should be tested

Published: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Evidence is needed to back up assertions of accuracy, quality. Both Department of Education Commissioner John Winn and Gov. Bush have publicly defended the quality and accuracy of the grading of the FCAT by temporary employees of CTB/McGraw-Hill, for which the company was paid $86.5 million. Gov. Bush has said, "There has not been any evidence that there has been any problems with the folks who are grading these tests. Not one problem."
Yet neither the governor nor the commissioner have provided one piece of evidence of support that the grading by CTB/McGraw-Hill has not been flawed. They both speak as a matter of faith that the grading has been perfectly flawless despite the forced disclosure, which Commissioner Winn vigorously fought, that CTB/McGraw-Hill employed graders lacking appropriate professional qualifications in the subject areas of the test that they graded.
In the DOE's "Keys to FCAT: Information About the 2006 Test," it is stated that, "Student responses to each writing prompt and each answer to a performance task are scored separately by a minimum of two professional evaluators."
It now appears that the governor and the commissioner were clueless that CTB/McGraw-Hill did not fully comply with the intended spirit of their contract with DOE to employ graders with appropriate professional qualifications. This seems a breach of contract that Commissioner Winn is still agreeable to paying in full.
So was the grading absolutely perfect - which is impossible in any case - or was it materially less than perfect? This question can be answered by a properly designed double-blind rescoring experiment.
Have CTB/McGraw-Hill rescore selected tests with level 2 and 3 scores and make the results transparent and open to the public. If the grades of the rescored tests only differ once in 1,000, a phenomenally high and acceptable accuracy rate, then only about 2,000 tests in all of Florida would be incorrectly graded. But if the rescored tests differ once in 100, still a 99 percent accuracy rate, then perhaps as many as 20,000 tests were incorrectly graded.
At near-perfect grading, a small number of incorrectly scored tests is unfortunate, but unavoidable. At an accuracy of 99 percent or less, it is not just unfortunate, but it becomes criminal.
Commissioner Winn and Governor Bush, you have a fiduciary responsibility to the children and the people of the state of Florida to demand an independent quality control assessment of CTB/McGraw-Hill's grading of the 2006 FCAT test and make all the details of that assessment available to the public. Naive, blind faith assertions are not enough to serve the public's interests. It is time for real hard evidence to back up your unsupported faith in the accuracy and quality of FCAT grading.

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