FCAT and FCAT 2.0 are both acronyms any Florida student will be able to tell you about. However, FCAT may be obsolete by the 2014-2015 school year.
FCAT, Florida’s standardized test, has been in place since 1996. It is given every spring to grades 3-10 and has a reading, writing, math and science component. According to Florida’s Path to Success, a decade ago Florida schools were ranked 47th out of 50, and now Florida is at 11th out of 50. Because of the new ranking, the department of education decided to create a harder version of the test: FCAT 2.0, first implemented in spring of 2012. Not only was the test more difficult, the scale used to show how a student’s score changed as well, with many kids getting lower scores than before.
However, these changes may be moot. According to The Daytona Beach News Journal, Florida has joined 45 states in the Common Core State Standards in preparation for the Partner for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, or PARCC. By the 2014-2015 school year, the FCAT will be replaced with exit exams, as well as the PARCC. This will change what is taught in schools.
The fact that these standards are used in 45 states worries many parents. They worry that this is the government changing schools, and that it will be directed at a federal level. In fact, the Republican Party states that this will lead children to “conform to a preconceived ‘normal’” and though the Common Core is not federal, the government has encouraged states to adapt in order to be competitive in the “Race to the Top” grant competition.
Florida’s educational commissioner Tony Bennett promises that Common Core is not a “government takeover” and says it was states coming together to have the best standards for their students. In fact, this provides an advantage to children who move in the middle of the year. While normally a child may fear being behind or ahead in their new school, with an almost-nationwide curriculum, that would no longer be an issue.
Volusia county superintendent Margaret Smith says that the new standards will have a more in-depth instruction on narrower topics. For instance, the children will learn ‘why’ instead of just memorizing. Also, reading and writing will need to be taught in all classes, even in math, where children will write how they solved the problems. In English classes, the Common Core requires 70% of reading to be non-fiction books.
This will require a learning curve for students and teachers, but Bennett is confident the change will be made by 2014, and will be better for students, preparing them as best as the state can for college and careers.