Change in Testing – 2016-17 Year in Transition

We are witnessing the dawning of a new era for K-12 education in Florida’s public schools with the new Florida Standards Assessment taking the place of FCAT after some 15 years. With it come more rigorous standards aimed at helping students achieve and succeed.

The focus of the new standardized exam is on English language arts (reading and writing) and math, replacing the math, reading, and writing sections of FCAT. The new tests will be administered to students in grades 3-11. There will also be end-of-course exams in the so-called gatekeeper course in addition to other end-of-course exams in algebra 2, geometry, biology, US History, and civics.

The changes, “made with students as top priority,” according to the Florida Department of Education (DOE), are part of the continuing effort to ensure all Florida children have the opportunity to succeed.

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart

In a letter to parents of Florida’s public school students, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart pointed to the fact that “Florida students are improving their performance in so many areas, while making Florida a national model in public education. Simply put, these standards are the detailed expectation of what every child should be able to do at each grade level,” wrote the commissioner.

The new standards were developed with an extraordinary amount of input from parents, educators, and the public, with the DOE taking due diligence to the highest level. More than 19,000 comments were obtained during a massive public review process coming from three public meetings held across the state and from thousands of emails received at the request of the DOE. The input led to 98 recommended additions and changes to the standards according to the DOE.

The Florida Standards put students on a track to learn to think analytically and critically using the essential skills which educators believe their students will need to thrive in today’s world and tomorrow’s as well.

While FCAT was based on the Sunshine State Standards, the new American Institutes for Research (AIR) test was designed to measure student mastery of the new Florida Standards. The focus will remain on online testing as it has been with FCAT 2.0 in recent years. The good news is, according to the DOE, the technology to be used requires schools to have minimal bandwidth and minimal technical support. AIR boasts a wealth of experience having delivered online tests to nearly five million students in some 20 states this year alone.

Commissioner Stewart stresses that, “The new test will provide a more authentic assessment of the Florida Standards, because it will include more than multiple choice questions. Students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content, and write and respond in different ways than on traditional tests.” She goes on to say, “New question types will assess students’ higher-order thinking skills in keeping with the higher expectations of the Florida Standards.”

As you might expect, school districts across the state have made sure that teachers will be well versed on the new standards. Trainings and workshops for both teachers and building principals and assistant principals had been scheduled by districts over the course of this past summer.

Should parents or guardians wish to preview the new Florida Standards Assessments for students, including sample questions, the Florida Department of Education encourages you to visit a new user-friendly Florida Standards Assessments online portal at www.fsassessments.org. There is a special area for parents and students. It even houses training tests specifically designed to help students, parents, and teachers become comfortable and familiar with the new testing instruments.

DOE email address for parents

The DOE also invites parents to email them at a special address: justforparents@fldoe.org.