LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- When your kid takes the FCAT you assume the tests are scientifically sound. But a WINK News Call For Action Investigation finds you might need to think again.
"I found two questions on there that had serious problems," said Robert Krampf, a science educator based out of Jacksonville.
"There were questions with more than one right answer."
For instance, one sample question for 5th graders taking the Science FCAT asks the students to pick an observation which is scientifically testable. But three of the four answers can be tested, yet only one gets points. Which means students will be penalized for giving a correct answer.
"That happens all the time," said Bob Schaeffer, the Public Education Director of Fair Test, a national watchdog group that fights to increase quality testing.
"Because tests are made by human beings, they don't think of all the ways creative kids can look at a question and see alternative ways that are just as good as the ones they want to be correct."
The high stakes test determines if kids can move to the next grade or if they can graduate. It also determines school grades, voucher eligibility and teacher tenure.
"If teachers teach beyond what they're supposed to be teaching, they could be setting the kids up to get wrong answers," said Krampf.
Despite these concerns from two top advocates, you may never know this is happening. The Florida Department of Education doesn't release the FCAT questions, instead they are recycled from year to year. Unlike the SAT's and other standardized tests.
"If you don't release the questions then the FCAT really doesn't tell teachers anything," said Krampf.
The FDOE says it can't release the questions because of cost savings. A spokeswoman says the state spends up to $2000 for each question.
Department officials say each question is reviewed by multiple committees before and after the test. If those committees find problems with individual questions they are thrown out.
In a statement the department says, "we are confident that the items used to score tests are strong indicators of student performance."
"Our kids and our taxpayers, who are paying for the tests, are ending up with a dumbed down education system," Schaeffer said.