February 21, 2012
Parents, Guardians and Community Members,
In spring 2012, Florida public school students will take the new Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), commonly referred to as FCAT 2.0., which is a much more rigorous test with increased expectations across all grade levels. In addition, the State Board of Education (SBE) raised FCAT cut scores for each passing level (Level 1 - Level 5) in December 2011 to be applied in spring 2012 - thereby further raising the achievement bar.
While everyone agrees that increased accountability and high academic standards are certainly in the best interest of our students; the reality of these changes in terms of real life consequences for students needs to be recognized and understood.
The combination of a much more rigorous FCAT test, coupled with raising the threshold for receiving a passing score will result in a dip in student scores. There is great concern that many Florida students will not be successful on FCAT 2.0.
For example, students that have consistently scored Level 3 (passing rate) their entire school career could easily score below the passing level with the new standards. The most dramatic impact will likely be in grades 3, 4, and 10.
What does all this mean in terms of student performance on FCAT 2.0?
There will be an increase in the number of students failing to pass FCAT 2.0
Subsequently, there will be an increase in the number of students having to take remediation classes for the portions of FCAT 2.0 that they failed
Secondary impact: the student's ability to take elective courses (i.e. band, art, drama, music, etc.) will likely be limited due to the addition of remediation courses
What does this mean for schools/the school district?
SCHOOL GRADES WILL FALL SIGNIFICANTLY.
Increased costs to school districts due to an increase in the number of remediation classes.
Potential elimination of elective courses in order to accommodate an increase in remediation courses.
What is truly important to remember - is that lower FCAT test scores do not necessarily indicate that a student learned less this year than in prior years.
It does indicate the student has work to do to master the new curriculum well enough to successfully progress to the new higher levels of accountability as required by the state. As teachers and students spend more time working with the new and higher expectations placed upon them, it is expected that test scores will rebound, student knowledge will increase, and ultimately the student will be better prepared for life after high school, either in college or the workplace.
To that end, all of us - students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, superintendents and our communities - must work together to continue to ensure the academic success of our students, which in turn directly correlates to the economic vitality of our communities.