Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State lawmakers back plans to replace high school FCAT

The FCAT in Florida high schools might soon become a thing of the past.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is pressing ahead with a plan to replace the test with a series of standardized end-of-course exams.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test did its job for a while, they say. But the state needs more sophisticated testing.

"End-of-course exams are more in line with what we're measuring," said Rep. John Legg, the Republican chairman of the House Pre-K-12 Policy Committee. "It's the next level of accountability that is more reflective of the student learning."

It was Republican former Gov. Jeb Bush who made the FCAT the high-stakes test that it is, with nearly unwavering support from GOP lawmakers. But now GOP lawmakers are leading the charge to end the FCAT in high school. And Bush himself is giving it a big thumbs-up.

"It would make high school relevant all the way through the experience, not just through 10th grade," Bush said this week on a national radio program.

The idea has been gaining steam for several years. But this year it looks poised to win widespread support. Backers say legislative leaders in both chambers are on board. And Democratic lawmakers have unveiled their own versions of the idea.

"I've always felt we had to get rid of the FCAT in high school," said Sen. Dan Gelber, a Democrat who has filed his own exam bill.

More than policymakers, students also seem to like the proposed change.

"It would probably be better," said Jack Whidden, senior at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel. "Sometimes during FCAT, you haven't really heard something that is on the test."

Tests like the FCAT are considered comprehensive exams, and are not aligned to specific courses. End-of-course exams test what students have learned in classes they have just taken.

The proposed testing change would likely begin with math next year, followed by science and reading, with the goal of making a complete transition within four years. Students would have to pass the exams to earn course credit, and the courses would become graduation requirements. So, instead of taking a math FCAT in ninth grade, students would take an exam after completing Algebra I.

The House and Senate education committees plan to jointly roll out bills next month.

The move makes sense in the broader discussion of modernizing high school accountability, said University of South Florida education professor Sherman Dorn, a prominent FCAT critic.

Done properly, the implementation of end-of-course exams could mollify FCAT opponents, who have complained about the overuse of the test, he said. It would melt concerns about the 11th-grade FCAT science exam, which is not tied to any class, he continued, while also satisfying those who want to see education reform move to the next level.

"It's more evolutionary than revolutionary," Dorn said.

Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a group that is critical of high-stakes testing, said there is a good reason Florida and other states are headed in this direction: The basic skills and comprehensive tests many states embraced aren't working, he said.

Schaeffer said Florida's steps toward end-of-course exams could be positive, but a lot depends on how the test is used.

If Florida uses end-of-course exams in the same way it uses the FCAT — such as making them a graduation requirement — then "that's not improvement, that's just more testing," he said.

"Just because they're phasing out . . . part of the FCAT, doesn't necessarily mean the new system will be better," Schaeffer said.

That has been a concern nationally as a more states shift away from comprehensive exams.

Last year, five states — Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee and Virginia — used end-of-course exams as a graduation requirement, according to the Center on Education Policy. But another 10, including Florida, plan to use them by 2015.

Texas plans to make tests in English, science, history and math for ninth- through 11th-graders graduation requirements by 2011.

"We ended up trading one high-stakes standardized test . . . for 12 tests like that," Texas State Teachers Association spokesman Richard Kouri said.

Legg of Pasco County said he wanted to "go slow" in rolling out the changes.

That's smart, Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith said.

"There always is a sense of urgency around reform," he said. "But giving this a chance to develop is going to give us a chance to make this successful for Florida."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614.

No more high school FCAT?

Florida lawmakers are considering a plan to replace the FCAT high school exit-level exams with end-of-course tests. Here are highlights of the bill expected to emerge in coming weeks:

• Substitute an end-of-course Algebra I exam for ninth-grade FCAT math

• Substitute an end-of-course geometry exam for 10th-grade FCAT math

• Substitute end-of-course Biology I exam for 11th-grade FCAT science

• Require passage of end-of-course exams to earn credit in those three courses, which would become graduation requirements

• Implement lower-stakes end-of-course exams for English/language arts II, Algebra II, chemistry, physics, earth/space science, U.S. history and world history as money is available.

Source: Florida House Pre-K-12 Policy Committee

State lawmakers back plans to replace high school FCAT 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 10:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. From the food editor: 'MasterChef' winner Shaun O'Neale talks cooking at Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival


    There are certain reliable signs that fall is on the way. Nothing in the weather department, of course, but other markers that usher in the celebratory final months of the year. One of those things is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which happens annually in Orlando, seemingly longer and more jam-packed …

    Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Puree. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. Mike Evans stands behind Michael Bennett


    Bucs receiver Mike Evans was signing autographs for children after Bucs practice on Saturday. As he signed, he talked about Seattle defensive and former Buc Michael Bennett, who last Friday sat during the national anthem and who says he will continue to do so to fight racial injustice.

    Mike Evans, left, hauls in a pass in front of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
  3. Man, I miss Planet Simeon


    Simeon Rice, right, works with Bucs defensive end Ryan Russell.
  4. Florida education news: HB 7069, solar eclipse, courtesy bus rides and more


    DISCORD: Employees of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association accuse the union of "less than fair and equitable" working conditions.