Eyeing the FCAT

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Tens of thousands of parents and students across Florida are again waiting anxiously to see their FCAT scores, but legislation that would allow parents to see what questions their children might have missed remains bottled up at the Capitol.

The FCAT test has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception. When the results come in, students get broad hints at where they need improvement, but the state has fought and won court battles to keep specific questions and answers secret.

For the second year in a row, two African-American lawmakers are pushing to let parents see the questions their offspring missed on the FCAT test. Senate sponsor Gary Siplin complains FCAT is the only high stakes test where the results are secret.

Sen. Gary Siplin, (D) Orlando, says, "You can see the law exam in law school, you can see the BAR Exam if you flunked that; you can see the SAT, the ACT. In fact, you can appeal those examinations, so why is it so tough to let a kid and a mom and a dad to see their kids’ FCAT questions and answers."

The Department of Education didn’t return our call, but in the past they’ve objected to releasing FCAT questions because they say it will cost money to create new ones. The department claims it could cost up to $10 million to write new questions each year.

House sponsor Frank Peterman says that’s a drop in the bucket.

Rep. Frank Peterman, (D) Pinellas County, says, "We had a $250 million computer system that didn’t work correctly for the state system. You just scraped it and walked away, so I think we waste money in a lot of other areas."

This year's test results will be out soon, but with no hearings scheduled in the Senate and four committee references in the House, parents will likely be kept in the dark at least another year.

The bill to allow parents to see their child's FCAT test passed the Senate 40 to nothing last year, but the House never took a vote.