Florida students to say goodbye to FCAT, hello to new, unnamed testby John Kennedy | March 17th, 2014
A so-far-unnamed test to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) next spring was selected Monday by state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, who said it will help make students ready for “college and careers.”
The nonprofit American Institutes for Research (AIR) will develop the test. It is currently being field-tested only in Utah which, although bearing few similarities to Florida, should still be enough to gauge its quality, Stewart said.
For security reasons, school districts won’t get a chance to review the new assessment, she added.
“Sample items will be available later this spring to let parents and students see what kind of questions will be on the test,” Stewart said in a conference call Monday.
The FCAT, used since the 2001-02 school year, was set for elimination as Florida continues on course to embrace the new Common Core Standards next year, the new initiative being phased in across more than 40 states.
Still, controversy has engulfed Common Core. Critics, many tea party conservatives, condemn Common Core as a big government takeover of education. Others on the political left blast it as more teaching-to-the-test.
Gov. Rick Scott last year tried to cool criticism, saying the state would not use the standardized test accompanying Common Core, the so-called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
But while Florida began shopping around for a replacement test, the state’s Board of Education last month also approved almost 100 modifications to the Common Core Standards. Some question whether the now-adapted Florida standards undermines the purpose of Common Core, and whether state students can be compared with others elsewhere.
But the new FCAT replacement will be cheaper to administer than PARCC, Stewart said. She also said the unnamed assessment will allow students to use pencil-and-paper in part, unlike the online-only PARCC test.
“This assessment supports our new standards, which emphasize flexibility for teachers to make their own decisions in classrooms while preparing our students to analyze and think,” Stewart said.