The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and State Standards: An Overview
High-stakes testing and letter grades for schools based on test performance are the key components of Florida's plan to drive school improvement.
By GreatSchools Staff
For the past 20 years, Florida has been one of the leaders among the 50 states in the standards and accountability movement. In 1999, continuing in this tradition, the Florida Legislature adopted the A+ Plan for Education, a blueprint for school reform with accountability as its focus.
Here are some basic questions and answers about Florida's standards and testing plan:
What is the FCAT?
The FCAT, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (pronounced "ef-cat") is a test given annually to all students in grades 3 through 11. The test measures student achievement in reading, writing, mathematics, and science based on the state's grade-level standards. In grades 4, 8 and 10 students take a writing test which consists of an essay and multiple choice questions. A reading and mathematics test is given in grades 3 through 10. In grades 5, 8 and 11 students take a science test.
What types of questions are on the FCAT?
The FCAT includes multiple-choice, gridded-response (fill in the blanks) and performance tasks (such as essays). The multiple-choice and gridded-response questions are machine scored. Each performance task test is scored by two trained readers.
You can see some of the 2006 tests at The Florida Department of Education's Assessment and School Performance page.
When is the FCAT given?
The FCAT is given during February and March. It is given early so that scores can be returned before the end of the school year.
How are FCAT results reported?
There are several types of scores for the FCAT. For reading, math and science, mean scores are reported on a scale of 100 to 500, with 500 being the highest score. Grade-level/subject-level scores are given in terms of five achievement levels, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. The writing test is scored on a scale of 1 to 6. Scores are sent to students, schools and school districts, and are posted on the Florida Department of Education's Web site. You can also find test scores by checking GreatSchools.org School Profiles.
What are the Sunshine State Standards (SSS)?
The Sunshine State Standards are Florida's version of statewide learning standards which define grade level expectations in the subject areas of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, the arts (dance, music, theater and visual arts), foreign languages, health and physical education. Part of the FCAT is designed to measure achievement of the standards in language arts, mathematics and science.
How does the FCAT affect promotion?
There are no passing scores set for grades 4 through 9. Students in grade 3 who score at level 1 (out of 5) on the FCAT reading test will not be promoted to the next grade unless there is other evidence that proves these students can read on grade level. Students who are retained will be given intensive instruction in reading to help them meet the standards.
Each local school board is required to have a pupil progression plan which sets guidelines for promotion from grade to grade. The plan must include clearly defined proficiency levels in reading, writing, math and science and must consider the FCAT scores in determining whether or not a student should be promoted.