Friday, May 25, 2018
Education

Florida unveils new but unfinished test to replace the FCAT

Forget the FCAT. Think FSA instead.

Florida's 15-year-old test officially gave way Monday to the Florida Standards Assessment, with the launch of a new website that gives a first look at the state's new accountability exams.

"We wanted parents and students and teachers to see the different types of questions there might be," said Vince Verges, state assistant deputy commissioner for accountability, research and measurement.

They range from easier multiple choice problems to complicated, multistep ones for which students may earn partial credit.

"Of the questions that are challenging, students will be asked to demonstrate a higher level," Verges said. "There will be more opportunities for them to show how much they have mastered."

In fifth-grade math, for instance, rather than just asking students to solve an equation, the test might present a solution and ask them to determine if it is wrong. Then students would have to give the correct answer.

The reading test might have students read a lengthy passage and then respond to questions such as, "What does the reader learn about the narrator in the last paragraph?"

This shift, Verges said, is much more significant than what students faced in the move from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to its second iteration, which began in 2010. That's why the state has put forth its website now — to give people time to acclimate to the way the tests work, as well as the way the questions are written.

Even so, Vergas said, the state will take one year to roll out the FSA before placing high-stakes accountability expectations on it. That will provide enough time to determine the proper mix of question difficulty and make other critical decisions.

A year is about what's needed to get teachers comfortable with a new testing model, said Russell Almond, a Florida State University assistant professor of educational psychology. He used recent changes to the state writing exam as a comparison.

"The first time the (writing) test was given, the teachers had not fully understood the implications of the changes in the standards and how they are operationalized in the assessment," he said. "But once they saw their students' assessments and scores, they relatively quickly adjusted."

Teacher preparation for the tests will be key, Almond said, so they can teach the standards appropriately.

Controversy has arisen in other states that, slightly ahead of Florida, have adopted new tests and curricula based on the new Common Core standards. Some have criticized the material as too rigorous, while others say the change is necessary if U.S. students are to perform at the level of their peers in other countries.

Common Core critics in Florida have been vocal about the standards but have not spoken out on the new tests.

Verges said he believes schools will be ready for the new tests when they debut in the spring.

"The standards are much clearer than anything we had previously," he said. "Teachers can use them and build from there. The assessment will follow naturally."

As for the sample tests, Almond said he found the computer questioning better than multiple choice, "in that they force the students to use the skills more constructively but they add computer skills into the construct."

Still, he had concerns that younger students might struggle with the system. He also said there is no way to skip questions and move on.

Verges said that was a problem only with the model that will be worked out for actual testing.

Overall, Almond said he saw things he liked and others he disliked in the new test. He said several issues will need to be worked out, from question wording to final scoring.

Jeff Miller, a Pasco County high school math teacher, said he found errors in the test answer keys that made him wonder about the trustworthiness of the exams to come.

Verges acknowledged that work remains ahead to have the FSA in working order. Teams continue to work on the questions, he said, and plans are in place to ensure the accountability measures are accurate.

"This will all be fleshed out," Verges said. "They will be ready on time."

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. Follow @jeffsolochek.

 
Comments
Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

TAMPA — Somebody got into Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively’s Facebook account, copied her messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is a friend of her rivals on the board.The posts discussed politics and power struggl...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

TAMPA — The company hired by the Hillsborough County School District to fill more than 170,000 substitute teaching shifts every year is defending its record, saying it works to get to the bottom of allegations against employees, treat them fairly and...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18