By Lazaro Aleman
Greene Publishing, Inc.
After more than a decade of promoting and defending the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), the state is forsaking the controversial measure and replacing it with a new assessment tool — the Florida Standards. Florida Department of Education (FDOE) Commissioner Pam Stewart announced the decision last week, characterizing the new assessment — which replaces the FCAT 2.0 exams next spring — as a step forward.
“The new assessment will measure each child’s progress and achievement on the Florida Standards, which were developed with an unprecedented amount of public input,” Steward is quoted saying. “This assessment supports our new standards, which emphasize flexibility for teachers to make their own decisions in classrooms while preparing our children to analyze and think.”
The announcement included the information that the state has entered a six-year, $220 million contract with the nonprofit American Institute for Research (AIR) to develop the new test.
In an accompanying open letter to parents dated March 17, Stewart describes the new standards as ”the detailed expectations of what every child should be able to do at each grade level.”
“The new standards were developed with unprecedented input from Florida teachers, educators and the public,” Stewart writes. “It is an exciting step. The emphasis with these new standards is for your children to think critically and analytically and go beyond memorization. These new standards will help your child be prepared for success no matter what path they choose after graduation.”
Stewart said the new assessment will include more than just multiple choice or simple fill-in-the-blank questions. She said students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content and write and respond in different ways than on traditional tests.
“New questions types will assess students’ higher order thinking skills in keeping with the higher expectations of the Florida Standards,” Stewart writes, adding that later this spring, samples of the new question types will be available for public review.
She further states that the guidelines for promotion and graduation will largely remain unchanged, and students not achieving the new criteria will still be able to meet the promotion requirement through the same exemptions that currently exist.
This latest development is seen as yet another step away from the controversial FCAT, which former Gov. Jeb Bush made the centerpiece of his A-through-F school grading system and that is credited, for better or worse, with transforming the state’s public education system.
The new test, yet to be named, will be Florida-specific, according to Stewart. Meaning that although it will largely be based on nationally developed standards, Florida officials have tweaked the math and English portions to appease critics of Common Core State Standards, which opponents decry the latter standards for a number of reasons, ranging from viewing them as flawed, mediocre or unrealistic to being part
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