ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Results from the state's standardized
public school exam won't be ready until June 28, a month after they
were due, the Florida Board of Education was told Tuesday.
      Grading the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is more
difficult than Pearson Assessment and Information Group estimated,
a company official conceded Tuesday. The Minnesota-based company is
in the first year of a four-year, $254-million contract to grade
the 4.4 million tests, which are given to about 1.8 million
elementary, middle and high school students annually.
      The company has already been docked $3 million for being late,
with thousands more being added daily. The money will compensate
districts for problems caused by the delay.
      The FCAT is used to monitor students' progress and schools'
compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind act. Third graders
must pass the reading test to be advanced to fourth grade, while
high school students must pass the 10th grade reading and math
tests to receive a standard diploma.
      Doug Kubach, Pearson's president and CEO, said the company
realized in about January that its system for grading the tests was
inadequate and changes needed to be made.
      But state Department of Education employees sensed a problem in
the fall, when Pearson missed deadlines during a dry run of the
scoring system, said Kris Ellington, the department's assistant
deputy commissioner.
      There are no plans to fire Pearson, state Education Commissioner
Eric J. Smith said. He said he's pleased Pearson is accepting
responsibility, and switching companies would disrupt next year's
tests.
      "This is an issue of trust that has to be re-established,"
Smith said. "We will do a post-mortem on this. I'm sure we will
find ways to improve."
      Department employees assured board members that the bidding
process used to select Pearson was thorough. Pearson scored highest
on every criteria, putting its total score well above those of its
competitors, department attorney Steve Ferst said.
      The presentation persuaded board member Susan Story, who
described the process as "fundamentally sound."
      In other business, the board approved rule changes implementing
measures already approved by the Legislature.
      One involves new high school graduation requirements that
students complete additional math and science courses.
      Another broadens the number of under performing schools where the
state can intervene, by allowing the state to consider more data
such as student proficiency in reading and math. This year the rule
applies to 16 schools. A pilot program identified 36 schools last
year. During the program 79 percent improved by one letter grade,
and 38 percent improved by two.