Are FCAT Graders Qualified?

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State Democratic leaders are calling for the resignation of Florida’s Education Commissioner after reviewing the qualifications of people hired to grade FCATs.

They’re concerned children and teachers whose future depends on FCAT scores may be getting short-changed by unqualified graders. But the state insists parents can have confidence scores are accurate.

Senate staffers reviewed boxes of applications of the nearly 3,000 temp workers hired to grade FCATs. All graders appeared to have at least four-year degrees, but some have sketchy work histories.

We went over a random batch of applications and found many with solid credentials. But not all. One person’s only job experience is as a cashier in a liquor store. This person worked as a café aid. This person worked for a gas station.

Senate Minority Leader Les Miller is angry.

“We’re talking about the most important test, in the way that it’s structured now, in the way the state puts that test over the heads of students and schools, the most important test not only in the students’ lives, but in the professional careers of teachers.”

A frustrated State Education Commissioner John Winn blasted back with a chart showing the checks and balances used to make sure only qualified people are hired. Graders are trained, random samples are taken to make sure they’re grading correctly, and two graders are used for each test.

“You have to be good at what you’re hired for and that is good at scoring accurately and consistently, regardless of your background.”

The real test now may be restoring parents’ confidence.

The state has made some changes in the wake of the FCAT scoring controversy. Graders will have to have a college degree in a field related to the subject they are grading. Education officials will also follow up to ensure the requirement is being met.