Make us your home page
Instagram

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 solochek@sptimes.com 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

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102