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Education

Harder FCAT is forerunner to national curriculum

FCAT2.jpg

Florida students begin testing under revised FCAT scoring system

Students across the state are taking their annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment test, commonly called the FCAT. State leaders have raised the bar for passing grades this year, and the move has school districts bracing for lower school grades. But as Lynn Hatter reports, the harder test is part of a national trend.

By 2015, all Florida students along with those in more than 40 other states, will be tested on a common curriculum. The program is called “National Common Core Standards”. The Florida Department of Education’s Jane Fletcher says it comes with greater demands for what students will have to learn.

 “The Common core state standards were developed to measure students college and career readiness, and so they’re rigorous standards, and that’s sort of the next step.”

This year’s FCAT is the precursor to the common core program. The Leon County School Districts’ Paul Felsch says the state is in a “transition period” when it comes to the FCAT and the common core.

 “Although we will be changing in a few years, we couldn’t stop and say ‘okay we’re not going to do anything’. We’ve been told that the Common Core Standards and the Next Generation standards have an overlap. And that’s another reason for the cut-scores being raised. Because the idea being, when we get to the common core standards, the bar will be raised again. So why wait for three years and all of a sudden raise it a whole bunch? Why not raise it gradually?”

Felsch is part of the district’s testing and research division and has sat on several state education committees. Last December the State Board of Education approved a series of changes to FCAT cut-scores: the score used to determine what level a child is performing on. A Level 3 is considered “proficient.”  

Meanwhile, this year’s Kindergarteners have already started learning under the common core system. Scotty Crowe is with the Leon County School District’s Division of Teaching and Learning

“So we will phase in…next year it will be Kindergarten, first  grade and then K-2, and they have to take the first standardized test, we will have prepared them for several years for the new standards.”

But that leaves less time for older students in higher grades to prepare for the new common core tests. The state Department of Education’s Jane Fletcher says it’s going to be up to teachers to prep those students. To get kids ready, teachers will be spending some time in summer school.  

“This summer, the department is holding group workshops with thousands of educators in order to help them get students ready for the new assessments and the switch over to the new common core standards.”

The Leon County School District is working on professional development sessions to run throughout the summer.