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Students, schools test for FCAT one last time this year

SEBRING - Avon Elementary Principal Pam Burnham gave the "all clear" soon after 10 a.m. Monday, marking the end of the FCAT testing for the day and the beginning of the end for the assessment test that began in 1998.

Over the next three weeks, schools in Highlands County and statewide will be administering the final reading, math and science portions of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The Florida Department of Education announced in March that the current version of the assessment test - FCAT 2.0 - will be replaced in the 2014-15 school year with assessments from the not-for-profit American Institutes for Research (AIR).

But, students, teachers and administrators are currently focused on the final round of FCAT. Test dates vary according to grade level and subject.

The department of education has advised school districts that testing could start on or after April 14. Based on the grade level and subject, they specified testing completion dates ranging from April 28 through May 7.

Avon Elementary third-graders took the Reading FCAT 2.0 Monday.

Burnham said the reading test will also be administered today. Third-graders will take the Math FCAT 2.0 Wednesday and Thursday.

"It's only third-grade this week, and it still is the paper and pencil assessment in third-grade," she noted. "It was very calm this morning and very smooth."

The testing schedule looks complicated, but when it is broken down by the elementary, middle and high school levels, it's "doable," Burnham noted.

Next year's AIR assessment is an "unknown" at this point, she said. "We will be looking forward to seeing that and getting our students acclimated to that one."

Hill-Gustat Middle School Principal Chris Doty said FCAT testing will start April 21 at his school with a larger percentage of students taking the test online.

"Because they are taking it on the computer, it has created some challenges with trying to cycle kids through the different computer labs," he said. "It's a very different way of doing the FCAT for the students because a lot of their class work is done primarily with textbooks and things like that.

"But, I think we have done a great job of preparing the kids and I think they are very ready for the assessment."

What were Doty's thoughts on changing to a new assessment next year?

It is not going to matter from year to year if the assessment is changed, Doty noted.

"I think the main thing is that we just continue to strive to get students to achieve and to do their best and we try to provide that quality education for students so that they will be prepared," he said.

If the format or rigor of the test is changed, Doty said, he and his teachers will adjust accordingly to prepare their students.

Department of education Press Secretary Cheryl Etters said school accountability grades will issued next school after the AIR assessments, but there will be no consequences tied to the grades because it is a "baseline" year.

The baseline information in the first year provides parents, schools, districts and all Floridians with a clear understanding of a student's and a school's starting point on the new, more rigorous standards and assessments, according to the department.

Burnham said it will be difficult next year for the state to implement a school accountability grading system not knowing the "cut scores" (achievement levels) for the new assessment and then having to create a the point scale for the A through F grades.

The FCAT 2.0 Writing assessment was administered Feb. 25, 26.

Etters said the writing results will likely be released in May.


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