BRADENTON – Most of Florida's notorious FCAT exam, a standardized test taken by students from elementary to high school, will be replaced next school year. After months of uncertainty, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced Monday that she had decided on the company that would deliver the new test, one that would rely more on showing "higher-order thinking skills," than the multiple choice format that is widely used in FCAT.
The American Institutes for Research, a social-science research organization based in Washington, D.C., will create the new series of tests. They were one of five firms that made a bid. The company will receive a $220 million, six-year contract.
|Education Commissioner Pam Stewart
The test will be aligned to the new Common Core academic standards and Stewart has said its questions are expected to be tougher than those of the FCAT. Students will have to show work, and do other tasks such as create graphs.
The new tests will replace the math, reading and writing sections of the FCAT. FCAT science exams will remain in place for the time being. There will be both paper-and-pencil and computer-based versions of the new tests. There will also be new end-of-course exams in geometry and algebra 1 and 2.
Tests will still be a factor in student promotion and graduation, public school grades and teacher evaluations.
"I am confident that his new assessment is the best decision for Florida students," Stewart wrote in a letter to Florida principals. "With the high-quality instruction that your leadership provides, the assessment will help us keep all students on their path to be college and career ready."
Stewart said that the Florida standards and new assessment are “the result of unprecedented input from educators and the public” and that practice tests revealing the new question types would be available later this spring.
Florida had been part of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), but was one of several states to pull out last fall, over multiple concerns, including costs. The FDOE says that with AIR, the state's cost would not only be lower than PARCC, but less expensive per-student than the state's current FCAT cost, dropping from $36.17 today to $34.23.
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