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Florida chooses new test to replace FCAT next year

Posted: March 17, 2014 - 9:27pm  |  Updated: March 18, 2014 - 7:47am
Third grade reading teacher Dana Young reads Two Bad Ants to her students in May. Students at Garden City Elementary School off Dunn Avenue have shown improvement in the FCAT reading and math scores for third graders and writing for grades 4, 8 and 10.  Bob.Self@jacksonville.com-
Bob.Self@jacksonville.com-
Third grade reading teacher Dana Young reads Two Bad Ants to her students in May. Students at Garden City Elementary School off Dunn Avenue have shown improvement in the FCAT reading and math scores for third graders and writing for grades 4, 8 and 10.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is ready to part ways with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a mainstay in the state's schools for more than a decade.


DATABASE: 1999-2013 FCAT scores (see details page in returned results for years prior to 2010)


Pam Stewart, the state's education commissioner, announced on Monday that she has approved a six-year contract with a not-for-profit outfit to develop a new test that students will be required to take a year from now.


RELATED: Duval County has room for school choice, but not everywhere (includes database of capacity rates)


"I feel very confident that it is the best choice for Florida's students and the assessment is going to measure their progress and achievement on Florida standards," Stewart said.

Stewart's decision to approve the $220 million contract with American Institutes for Research marks yet another significant step toward the state's transition away from the FCAT, which has drawn both praise and scorn for the way it transformed the state's public schools.

The new tests will include more than the multiple-choice questions that are a framework for many standardized tests, including the FCAT.  The commissioner also said Monday that students will use paper and pencil to complete the tests initially, but that schools will gradually transition to online tests.

In a letter sent to principals Monday, Stewart said students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content and "and write and respond in different ways than they would on traditional tests." She added that the new questions will assess "higher order thinking skills" that are part of the "higher expectations" included in the state's new standards.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush made the FCAT the centerpiece of his A-through-F school grading system. Test results were not only used to evaluate schools but also to determine whether third-graders should be held back and whether high school students were ready to graduate. Debate over the FCAT even triggered a change in state law over when the school year would start.

The new test, which still does not have a name, will be based on a new set of standards that are based largely on the contentious Common Core State Standards. Florida officials tweaked the math and English standards earlier this year to include such items as a requirement for cursive writing. But this change has not ended the backlash against Common Core.

Florida was initially part of a national consortium developing a Common Core test, but the state pulled out of the Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders.

The group selected Monday has ties to a different national consortium that developing its own Common Core test but Stewart insisted the new test will be Florida-specific. She did note, however, that the type of questions used on the test was being tried out first this year in the state of Utah.

Randy Osborne, who works with the group Florida Parents Against Common Core, called the new testing vendor an "evil twin" to the previous group the state worked with.

"We can call it what we want, call it what we may," Osborne said. "We can call it Florida standards. I call it putting lipstick on a pig."

When Florida first adopted Common Core standards, one of the arguments in its favor was that it would allow parents to compare how Florida students compared to students in other states. Stewart, however, said that there would be advantages to the new test, including that it would take less time than the one developed by the national consortium and could be given later in the school year.

Comments (10)

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olgator
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olgator 03/18/14 - 07:29 am
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2 questions: who owns

2 questions: who owns American Institutes for Research and how much did they contribute to our Governor's reelection campaign. (Or Utah's)

My suspicion is all this stuff about a quality test blah blah blah is window dressing and our public school kids' lives are ruled by high pressure, silly window dressing that covers the kickback scam.

Jsackerson
252
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Jsackerson 03/18/14 - 08:34 am
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Watch scores plummet when

Watch scores plummet when they can't teach the test anymore! That will put a whole new look on the situation.

Wisdom of Solomon
465
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Wisdom of Solomon 03/18/14 - 09:06 am
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Here is an interesting little

Here is an interesting little detail that was left out of the article . . . The American Institutes for Research, also known as AIR, is the group Florida contracted with to develop their Value Added Model for evaluating teachers, and we've all seen how that turned out!

mad
172
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mad 03/18/14 - 09:41 am
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Jsackerson, your wrong about

Jsackerson, your wrong about the FCAT. Its very secure, its the EOCs that are a joke. They arent taped shut and theyve been using the same tests for 10 years. Civics was new a couple of years ago. Look at how the scores rose after the first year. Its very easy to teach to the test on EOCs. The curve is rediculous too. Every body passes EOCs. You cant teach to the test on FCAT. No body knows whats on it.

Mr McFeeley
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Mr McFeeley 03/18/14 - 12:22 pm
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Florida needs a test that can

Florida needs a test that can be manipulated by the by the state board to mitigate the likely low scores that will result from switching to the new Florida Standards based on Common Core. The PARCC tests that were designed for nationwide testing of Common Core would be inviolate and the state would have had to live with the results, good or bad. This new test will likely allow the politicians in Florida to raise and lower cut scores to paint whatever picture they want to paint. At $220 million, I would really like to know why we just couldn't have stayed with Common Core and the testing already created. I'm betting the costs were similar and would have forced all of us to see where our children measured up to other students on a level and fair playing field. Those who opposed Common Core were thrown a bone that served the politicians while totally dismissing their criticisms which were based on a paranoid distrust of the federal government to begin with. The losers once again are Florida's students and their parents.

As far teaching to the test goes, we have taught to FCAT for years by teaching the standards that would be tested. Nothing will change except the standards will be even more stringent. The good news is that if the politicians don't like the results they can lower the bar to a point where they find the numbers politically expedient. As long as the parents continue to re-elect the same people, their fates will remain in the hands of those who no little of education and apparently less still about progress.

olgator
2114
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olgator 03/18/14 - 12:50 pm
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Premium Member

My suspicion is any score

My suspicion is any score manipulation would be used to make charters look successful and public schools look like failures. That way they can fire more experienced teachers and bring in more low wage, inexperienced babysitters and call them teachers. CHA CHING

olgator
2114
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olgator 03/18/14 - 02:55 pm
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Premium Member

Harbinger if what you say is

Harbinger if what you say is true the news could not have come from a more appropriate messenger. Thanks for the info.

Wisdom of Solomon
465
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Wisdom of Solomon 03/18/14 - 04:20 pm
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Olgator . . . It's no secret,

Olgator . . . It's no secret, but i bet the DOE would like it to be.

olgator
2114
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olgator 03/18/14 - 05:22 pm
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Premium Member

Wouldn't it be cool if a

Wouldn't it be cool if a newspaper or journalism outlet took a look at that and the money trails? That would sort of be like our democracy working the way the founders intended.

mad
172
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mad 03/19/14 - 05:19 pm
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Premium Member

Why is the TU always in love

Why is the TU always in love with the superintendant? They were the same with EPD. I agree with olgator. Some good investigative journalism would be refreshing.

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