Reading and writing are basic skills everybody needs to succeed. But the latest FCAT scores revealed that Florida students are failing in large numbers.
"We can argue about the value of that," said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association.
Do these tests really drive teachers to work harder in the classroom to educate students?
"As teachers, we are not afraid of accountability, we're not afraid of evaluation -- just so long as it's a fair evaluation which fairly shows what's going on in the classroom."
Governor Rick Scott now says perhaps we're testing students too much. His comments came shortly after the National Education Association adopted a resolution at its annual convention opposing the overuse of standardized testing with strong support from hundreds of Florida delegates.
Todd Farley, who wrote a book called "Making the Grade: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry," says he's seen the problems with testing up close.
"If you've been in the trenches the way I have for years, scoring student tests, you see that the standardized test as a tool is not that fine."
Farley says he has 15 years in the industry and doesn't like what he sees.
"Consider the industry is 100 percent unregulated so nobody is looking at what these companies do. They're saying, 'We're doing a great job; trust us' and nobody checks that."
Although he's never scored tests in Florida, Farley did work for Pearson, the company Florida pays to administer the FCAT and Farley believes his experience was commonplace in the industry.
"Basically every two minutes you read something. Eighth graders writing about someone important in their life and maybe when this began, the first day, you say that is wonderful, they wrote about their coach or grandfather. But the 10th time somebody has written about it, you don't care and the 500th time they've written it, all you are doing is looking at the clock. How much longer until break, until the end of the day?"
What does Pearson say? We were sent a statement by the company which spells out the numerous checks and balances in place throughout the day to ensure quality control.
The company says all scoring is part of a meticulous calibration process which is repeated numerous times throughout the day to continuously verify quality. Furthermore, according to the statement:
"All of Pearson's assessment scoring is routinely reviewed by independent, third-party experts. In fact, and as reported in the Orlando Sentinel, a review of the 2012 FCAT writing exam by the Buros Center for Testing at the University of Nebraska concluded that the FCAT writing assessment meets the 'standards of best practices' in statewide writing tests and employs a scoring system that is 'uniformly professionally performed.'"
The company says the electronic scoring system now used was not used by Todd Farley.
"Mr. Farley was employed by Pearson from late 1995 to 1999, more than 13 years ago. He is not qualified to comment on any of the numerous innovations in scoring technologies, processes and ISO 9000 standards used by our company today."
Farley disagrees, saying he maintains close ties to people in the testing industry and believes nothing has changed because even today, the public will never know who's reading a child's test.
"It could have been an English teacher or it could have been -- one of my favorite examples was in Phoenix -- an ultimate fighter. He spent his nights getting punched in the head and then came to work the next morning to score tests," said Farley. "The companies who make a whole lot of money on these tests are not going to tell you that."
Pearson's current four-year contact with the state of Florida is worth just under $250-million. Last year, 1.8 million kids were tested at a cost of just over $30 a student.
Florida's Department of Education says it's satisfied with the job Pearson is doing.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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