The Florida Department of Education has extended the deadline for input on its new standardized exam that will replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) by one week.
The department announced in June that it was seeking input from educators and other interested parties to ensure the test guidelines would accurately reflect the newly adopted standards. The deadline, which was originally set for Sept. 5, has been extended to Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. to allow additional time for comments.
The Florida Standards will replace the FCAT this year, but the guidelines for mathematics and English language arts are still under revision.
The guidelines, documents outlining the content and format of test questions by grade-level and subject, clarify how Florida’s new education standards will be tested for the exam’s writers and reviewers.
Jackie Johnson, a spokesperson for Alachua County Public Schools, said these documents could serve as another resource for teachers, but she advised against “teaching the test.”
“If you focus on only the test questions and the format of the test, then you end up teaching to the test,” she said. “And that’s not very meaningful learning.”
The Florida Standards, which were adopted after a unanimous Board of Education vote in February, are a set of educational guidelines for what students are expected to know by the time they graduate high school, said Kevin Christian, a school board public relations and communications officer for Marion County.
The new standards will require students to use analytical skills to create an answer rather than choosing a multiple-choice option, which was common in FCAT test.
“It forces students to think more when they’re answering questions,” said Christian. “(It’s) a more open-ended concept to standardized testing than in the past when students bubbled in an answer.”
Any public input will be evaluated and utilized to refine the existing specifications. Updated versions of these documents will be released at a later date, according to a memorandum released by the Florida Department of Education.
The feedback forms for mathematics and English language arts, as well as writing rubrics, ask reviewers to rate statements ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The statements vary by subject and include space for additional comments. The forms also define key terms that are used in the specification documents.
This is an opportunity for parents, teachers and community members to become involved, Christian said.
“A lot of times people may complain about things that they don’t know a lot about, and this is an opportunity not only for them to educate themselves but to become involved in the process,” he said.
Test item specifications and feedback forms can be found online at fsassessments.org.