How Achievement Scores Work

How Achievement Scores Work


In Florida, we use Common Core, and our mandated end of the year diagnostic is called the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Student achievement is obtained by him/her scoring a level 3 or better on this exam. These scores stay on their records, dictate some of the classes they will take, and sometimes, determine whether or not they will graduate.

The Test:

For math, the test consists of 3 sections, taken on two days, totaling between 60 and 70 questions. These questions are designed to cover the standards that the FLDOE says should be covered in that grade level.



Each question is given a weight, based on how many students correctly answered it.

For example, if 10% of the students in Florida correctly answered question 1, then it must have been a tough one, and is thus worth many points. However, if 90% of the students correctly answered question 2, it must have been easy, and is thus not worth many points.


The scores are than arranged from high to low, and ‘cut scores’ are chosen to divide the students into 5 levels (five being the highest).

A level 3 or better is considered ‘on grade level.’ We used to call it ‘proficient,’ but the FLDOE just changed that terminology to ‘sufficient.’ Regardless of the title, students must be a 3 or better to be considered on grade level – and to pass any test that is mandatory (like the Algebra End of Course Exam).

Curving the Test

The goal is for the 5 levels to arrange like a bell curve.

However, in 2015 the commissioner recommended that the percentages be divided in a way that more heavily weights the level 1’s than the level 5’s (see chart below). You will also notice that the commissioner has pre-determined what percentage of the students score a level 3 or better (which is considered passing).

Thus your student’s score, and subsequently the level earned, is determined not by how many right and wrong he/she achieves, but rather, what percentile his/her score falls in when compared to the rest of the students who take the test.


Take Aways:

  • For a student to earn a level 3 or better, they must earn more points than other students in the state, not get a certain percentage correct. Thus, they don’t need to be the ‘cream of the crop,’ merely, the “Cream of the Crap.”
  • The goal is not to master the material, just to master it better more of it than 50% of the students in the state.
  • A level 3 (the achievement level) is generally obtained by the student getting around 50% of the questions correct. Thus, you should not feel obligated to get all of your students through all of the material in a year.
  • Make sure your students master the content before moving onto the next.




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