Lawmakers consider changes to F-CAT

As students across Florida sit down this week to take the first F-CAT exams of the year, state lawmakers are considering some major changes to the controversial assessment tests.

You might not even hear the name FCAT in a few years. Many of the proposals are aimed at easing the pressure students and even teachers feel over the high-stakes test.

Reading teacher Marsha Joplin is excited to hear legislators are talking about making the FCAT a little more user-friendly. Among the suggestions – move the test closer to the end of the school year, instead of just a few weeks after the winter break. “When I receive my students in August, I have to show a year’s worth of growth by the time we take it in February, which you can tell is not the 12 months.”

Other changes could include making the F-CAT shorter, making it more computer-based – less paperwork – even changing the name.
The goal is to bring Florida’s assessment test up to date with new education standards and reduce some of the anxiety the test causes.

Representative Curtis Richardson says it’s high time the state took a hard look at how the F-CAT is administered. “All along what districts and parents and students have been telling us is that we needed to move in another direction.”

But don’t expect a lowering of standards. House Committee on K-12 Education Anitere Flores says accountability has been a good thing. “The high stakes form of FCAT, while certainly unpopular, has led to higher student achievement.”

In reality it will be years before any changes take effect. And with FCAT-based school grades including science this year, F-CAT anxiety will likely only increase for the foreseeable future.

Lawmakers say it would be four to five years before a new assessment test could be implemented in Florida schools. There are not enough computers go to an all-computer-based test, and it takes time to design and test new questions and formats.

Legislators will consider proposed changes during the spring legislative session that starts next month