More parents calling FCAT hotline; Some questions can't be answered

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

A statewide hotline set up to answer parents’ questions and complaints about this year's dismal FCAT scores had only received 147 calls as of mid-afternoon Monday, but WFTV has learned more parents are calling the hotline after seeing our story on Monday.

Website: FCAT Hotline | 866-507-1109

The state set up a new hotline and website because of a huge drop in writing scores this year. But officials said some people are asking questions they just can't answer.

State officials said many parents are calling asking for individual test results, but those numbers are not yet available. Instead, state officials said the hotline is designed to answer general questions and to ease tensions.

So far, nearly 1,300 people have either called the hotline or logged on to the new website.

“Everybody is just a little concerned,” said operator Jasmine Hopkins. “Everybody wants to know where the scores are. They have questions regarding why the FCAT is important. You know, just typical parent questions. Some are friendly, and some are not so friendly."

Orange County parent Carol Hale knows how important her children's FCAT scores can be.

“This impacts their grades. This determines whether they go on further,’’ she said.

That’s why so many parents couldn't believe what they saw when the state released the first batch of scores last week: 70 percent of students failed the writing test.

The state quickly decided to lower the passing grade, which allowed more children to pass, and it even set up a hotline to address parents’ concerns.

In addition to criticisms about the revamped writing test’s more rigorous standards, there has also been criticism about Pearson, the company that grades the FCAT. Pearson has been sued before over scoring errors.

“The Department of Education has had outside independent reviews, of not only the scoring, but of the FCAT test itself. … That will continue again this year. They're doing exactly the same process,” said Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters.

State officials plan to run billboard ads and public service announcements to promote the hotline. Money from an education foundation will pay for that, officials said.

More test results are expected to be released soon.

If you would like to call the FCAT hotline, the toll free number is 866-507-1109. The hotline is open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day.