Just to be clear about FCAT writing ...
Florida's FCAT writing results this past spring caused nothing short of chaos. The State Board of Education flinched on its scoring standard, reducing the passing level amid plunging scores and teacher complaints that they hadn't gotten enough warning that the evaluation rules had changed.
This year the Florida Department of Education has issued a plain-spoken, three-page FAQ sheet on the annual test, aiming to avoid a similar fiasco again in 2013. It answers many of the concerns that people raised, without backing down on the key focus of increasing expectations. For example:
Do misspelled words in a student’s response negatively affect the score more than in the past?
Spelling is only one aspect of demonstrating knowledge of the standard English conventions described in the rubrics. Although spelling will continue to be considered in scoring, it is the preponderance of commonly used words being misspelled that could impact the score.
We also see that students have been given an additional 15 minutes to complete their work:
What are the expectations for students related to the increased time for the writing assessment?
For the 60-minute timed writing assessment, students are expected to read the prompt independently and to plan the response according to the topic and purpose for writing (grade 4 narrative or expository, grades 8 and 10 persuasive or expository). After planning, the student should draft the response while using a continual process of revision, checking to be sure that the writing is clear and effective. Finally, the student should proofread and edit for the correct use of standard English conventions.
Now everyone just has to be sure to read the documents. After what happened this spring, it's more than likely all this information won't go unnoticed. As to whether students should be subjected to such a test, that's a question for another day.