TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- An emergency rule lowering the passing grade for Florida's standardized writing test will keep the failure rate essentially unchanged from last year.
A passing grade on the writing exam has been dropped from 4.0 to 3.0.
The State Board of Education unanimously passed the rule, taking the heat off local school boards who cried foul after preliminary results showed only about a third of students would pass this year. That would have been down from 80 percent or better on last year's writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT.
"It's like we've been practicing football all year long and when we show up for the game, it's basketball," said Duval County school board member Becki Couch.
Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals had hoped the Board of Education would have studied what happened in grading the writing tests before taking action.
"All a parent can assume is my child got worse in writing in fact they may be writing better than they were before," said Pratt-Dannals.
The dramatic decrease in writing scores came after the test was made more difficult and the board raised the passing grade from 3.5 to 4.0 on a scale of zero to six.
The emergency rule will drop the passing grade to 3.0, but only for this year. The writing test is given in the 4th, 8th and 10th grades.
Next month, FCAT scores for reading and math will be released, with school districts warned that higher standards along with tougher scoring, will likely translate in lower student scores.
The FCAT is used in determining a school's grade issued by the state. Education Commissioner Gerard Robison in a conference call Tuesday afternoon said there will be fewer A schools and more schools with D and F scores.
First Coast News reporter Roger Weeder contributed to this report.