McGonegal joins other superintendents in calling for FCAT audit

MANATEE — Manatee Schools Supt. Tim McGonegal is joining the state’s other superintendents in pressing for an audit to determine why the writing scores of the state’s fourth-graders dropped more than 50 percent from last year.

Teachers unions and other education associations also are objecting to the statewide writing test results, released Monday, which show that the percentage of fourth-graders who scored 4 or higher on FCAT Writes dropped to 27 percent this year from 81 percent last year.

The percentage of eighth-graders determined to be proficient dropped from 82 to 33 percent, and the percentage of passing 10th-graders dropped from 80 to 38 percent.

“There’s no way our students and our teachers could have dropped by 54 percent in one year,” McGonegal said, citing a statement released by the Florida Superintendents Association. “That’s just not even feasible. It’s not even possible.”

Scores for individual districts haven’t yet been released, and the state hasn’t said when they will be. But word of the statewide scores has triggered outcry and caused the state Board of Education to call an emergency meeting for Tuesday to consider lowering the proficiency score from 4 to 3.5.

McGonegal and the superintendents' association is objecting to that move, calling it a “Bandaid” and a “knee-jerk reaction.” Instead, McGonegal says, the state should be conducting an in-depth investigation into how the tests were graded.

“For the sake of our students and our teachers, the state shouldn’t just gloss this over,” he said. “We need to have an external audit and find out what really happened here.”

New grading standards on the FCAT writing exam call for more strict scrutiny of punctuation, spelling and sentence structure, as well as closer scrutiny of the details students present in their writing.