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Florida Matters: Choosing The Next FCAT


Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is expected to recommend a test to (mostly) replace the FCAT later this month.

A new test is needed because Florida is finishing the switch tonew K-12 math, language arts and literacy standards this fall. The standards are largely based on Common Core standards fully adopted by 44 other states and the District of Columbia.

This evening, WUSF's Florida Matters takes a look at the test decision with University of South Florida education historian Sherman Dorn, Pasco County Assistant Superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson, and Melissa Kicklighter, a vice president with the Florida PTA.

Dorn said we won't know how much will change with the test until the decision is announced.

"It might be tests that are interesting and challenging," he said. "It might be tests that are very close to what students experience with FCAT -- or somewhere in between."

In math classrooms, Van Name Larson said, Common Core emphasizes teaching students multiple ways to solve problems to determine which method they like best. She wants to see tests which let students show their work.

"Allow students to show what they know in different ways," she said. Common Core "allows for students to learn different strategies and choose a strategy that they feel more comfortable with to show what they know."

A lot is riding on the test decision. State law requires much of school and teacher performance is based on the test results, so making sure the new test accurately measures the standards is important.

There's also big money riding on the contract. Pearson currently holds a five-year, $249 million contract to administer the FCAT. The new test is expected to cost about as much per student as the FCAT.

Five companies -- ACT Aspire, American Institutes for Research, CTB/McGraw-Hill, McCann Associates and Pearson -- bid to become the next FCAT. A state panel has recommended AIR, but the decision is Stewart's.

You can listen to Florida Matters at 6:30 p.m. on WUSF 89.7 in the Tampa Bay region. You can also listen online here. The show reairs at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Editor's note: Education department spokesman Joe Follick says Stewart will announce the new test "sometime in March but it’s not pegged to the BOE (March 18 Board of Education) meeting." The post has been corrected.