Students in third grade through eleventh grade can expect yet another standardized test. This spring, the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) will replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) reading and math exams.
Like the FCAT it replaces, the FSA testing is meant to assess students’ knowledge. However, the new test focuses on testing Florida Standards, which are based on the Common Core and designed to prepare students for careers and college.
Instead of exclusively comprising multiple choice questions, the new tests will involve graphing, writing, and interactive content. The test will also involve listening sections. “Students will now have to use the headphones to listen,” Testing Coordinator Kristin McCombie said.
In order to implement those new methods, FSA testing will be computerized for fifth-graders and older students. Third and fourth-graders will continue to take a paper-based test.
McCombie, who is leading the testing switch at Pine View, acknowledged a learning curve with the new testing. “It’s new for everyone,” McCombie said.
Because FSA testing has an entirely different format than FCAT, teachers have been using the practice exams available on fsassessments.org. “I encouraged teachers [and students] to practice the online test,” McCombie said.
Florida is also adding a new Algebra 2 end-of-course exam this year, as well as updating Algebra 1 and Geometry end-of-course exams to match new standards.
FSA testing is currently scheduled for April while end-of-course exams are scheduled for May.
Teachers expressed varying opinions about the new testing. Eighth-grade English teacher Cheryl Steele noted that requiring students to type their essays would present difficulties for poor typists. “Students do not type very quickly, which could impede their score,” Steele said.
The computerized nature attracted criticism from students as well. “I don’t like how the math is also online,” ninth-grader Celeena Memon said.
Half of teacher evaluations will be based on this new testing. Steele noted that students and teachers should have been given more time to adapt to the changes before the new evaluation policy was implemented.
Eighth-grade algebra teacher Rory Kaminske was less critical of the changes. “From the example [math] problems I’ve seen, it seems more challenging,” Kaminske said. The state bills FSA testing as more focused on high-level critical thinking skills.
According to Kaminske, the introduction of FSA testing is reminiscent of the FCAT’s introduction. “It reminds me of FCAT. It’s the same adjustment just to a new test,” he said.
For now, students are encouraged to explore the website, fsassessments.org, and take the training test.