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New state hotline ringing off the hook with FCAT questions

3:13 PM, May 22, 2012   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Parents across Florida are flooding the Florida Department of Education with calls and questions about the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The department is operating a new call center at its Tallahassee headquarters to answer questions about the FCAT, including the scoring changes implemented last week for the writing test.

The state is using a tougher grading system for the FCAT and that's resulted in some lower scores. Experts in the call center are trying to explain the higher standards and answer other questions.

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson has admitted the department should have done a better job communicating with parents about the grading changes.

Last week the state Board of Education lowered the passing score on the writing test after about two thirds of the students failed.

But the department's new communication effort was planned before the recent FCAT problems, said Deputy Director of Educator Relations Kelly Seay.

"I think it's just coincidental that that happened to be at the same time. We've really been planning the rollout for parents around the release of the FCAT scores because we knew that would be a high volume call time," Seay said. "But yes, I think it's very beneficial that we are now going to be able to speak to our parents and community leaders about what's going on with the FCAT scores."

More than 500 parents called the new hotline during its first day and a half of operation. The department is also directing parents to websites with more information, as well as a new email address for specific questions.

"We really saw a need with parents and we really wanted to reach out to them and have a way that we could communicate directly with the parents, which is why we set up the call center and the website and the new email site," said Seay.

For more information call 1-866-507-1109 regarding questions FCAT. The operators do not have individual scores for students, but will answer all other FCAT questions.

The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Or go online to floridapathtosuccess.org. The new email address is justforparents@fldoe.org.

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