Sixteen Matanzas High School seniors did not receive their diplomas when they marched in their graduation ceremony on May 29–not because they didn;t complete their required course work, but because the company scoring results on two end-of-course exams has yet to complete the work and forward it to the Flagler district. Instead, they got a letter from the principal informing them that “as soon as the state issues the EOC scores and it is determined that you have passed the course(s) necessary for graduation, we will release your diploma for pick-up.”
It’s not a new issue. “We’re kind of no stranger to this,” Shawn Schmidly, the Flagler district’s testing coordinator, said. Last year, students had to wait until June 16 to get their scores back, and their diplomas. Schmidli is hoping the testing company scoring the work–Pearson, whose contract with the state has been poorly executed, mirroring Pearson’s problems worldwide–will turn it in by next week. But there’s no way to tell. Pearson has a long history of delayed results in Florida.
None of Flagler Palm Coast High School’s graduating seniors had their diplomas withheld for that reason, Principal Lynette Shott said. (Both schools had other seniors not receiving their diplomas, but for other reasons.)
“This is something we’ve always had,” Chris Pryor, the principal at Matanzas–until June 30–said. “We’ve had a similar letter that goes out if you’re waiting on an FCAT retake score. It’s not anything they had done wrong. We’re waiting on those scores to make sure they passed and how it affected their grades. It should not really do much to them as long as they passed.”
Students’ diplomas are being delayed because of two exams: biology and U.S. history. By law, those exams must account for 30 percent of the course grade. Absent those results, teachers cannot calculate a student’s final grade, or his or her overall performance and GPA.
Seventh graders in the district are facing a similar delay over their Civics test that Pearson is administering. Those results, too, are delayed, holding back final grades for those seventh graders, though the district is matriculating them to 8th grade regardless when it has clear calculations that the course results themselves will not play a factor in that decision. “I don;t think it’s a significant number” of students who are affected in 7th grade, Schmidli said.
Other than Pearson’s delays, two other reasons contribute to the scores not being ready. For one, schools have been pushing the administration of end-of-course tests to much later in the school year, so that students are also much better prepared to take the exams, having had more weeks of instruction. In the past such exams were given in February and March, nearer the half-way point of the school year, causing more anxiety and less instructional time. This year’s end-of-course exam window closed just two to three weeks ago. “We always advocate for more instructional time, by doing that you’re almost playing a game of chicken, you’re waiting until the end of the year,” Schmidli said.
But another reason for delayed diplomas is entirely in students’ hands, and it explains why none of FPC’s graduating seniors had the same problem: both subjects being blamed for delayed results are usually taken by students in their 10th or 11th grade years. For whatever reason, the 16 students at Matanzas chose to take those courses in their senior year, and ended up in the delayed pool.
The problem of delayed scores could have been much broader this year, with Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry all potentially affecting some students the same way: none of those results came back to the district in time for the grades to be finalized. But in that case, Schmidli said, each of the exams, because they are new, are undergoing a validation process by an independent company. That validation process may take weeks or months, with results that could be delayed until late summer. Those exams, too, would have normally accounted for 30 percent of a student’s final grade. But the state Department of Education waived that requirement this year so that the legally-required validation does not count against students’ grades. Instead, students’ grades were calculated based on what work they’d done in class (the old-fashioned way).
The delays with the other scores did not stop the 16 students from taking part in their graduation ceremony.
All this test material is really stupid! Don’t need it and it’s a waste of money. Let the teachers teach. We didn’t have these tests when I was in high school. I made it through life with two college degrees too.
Remember that when you vote. The Republicans love their standardized testing (and all the money that lines their coffers from the lobbyists that go with it)
Not to worry, no matter what they’ll give to anybody so they all graduated.
Merrill Shapiro says
Let’s not forget that the lobbyist for Pearson was none other than the Republican we here in Flagler County elected to represent us in the Florida State Senate: John Thrasher. They have a long history of bungling testing, but they had a good lobbyist, so they got the contract. It’s just not fair that our children must pay the price for all this bungling on our part!
lena Marshal says
with all the virtual devices we have out there, and this has to happen, bad management and the kids are the ones to suffer
Let me get this straight–it’s an EOC (End of Course) exam. I would think that an END OF COURSE exam would be held at the END OF THE COURSE, not in the middle of the year or in March or April, but at the end of the year. If the EOC is given in the middle of the year or in February or March, then what do the students in that class do following the EOC??? Obviously they’ve taken the exam and it can’t be given again so is that just several months of fun and games in class, if not , what are they being taught because they have covered everything necessary for the class in order to take the ECO in the 3rd grading period and actually have the opportunity to pass the EOC. We have many smart, gifted and talented students in all of the Flagler County Schools, be it public, or charter–we also have many talented teachers, WHY are we doing things like administering EOC’s in the middle or 2/3 of the way through the school year? I know the state gives a window, why is no one standing up to the state and saying “NO!” to administering EOC’s in the middle or 2/3 of the way through the year. Why is no one saying “Our teachers and students deserve better?” Our students and teachers do deserve better, and it’s about time that the School Board, County school administration along with teachers, students, parents and the public stood up to the state and let their voices be heard.
Their system of dealing out diplomas is ridiculous. My diploma was withheld pending an “unpaid debt” for a stolen textbook that I paid out of pocket for on time, only to still not receive my diploma. They STILL haven’t released it yet. You have to wonder why it’s only Matanzas and not FPC.