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September 21, 2005
Governor Bush Announces Release of Grade 10 FCAT Tests
2004 test to serve as additional educational resource to parents, teachers, students
TALLAHASSEE Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner John L. Winn today announced the first complete test release of the Grade 10 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Florida released the 2004 Grade 10 reading and mathematics tests, which were actual tests taken by students and are no longer in use. The FCAT test release included answer keys, a fact sheet explaining uses for the test and a list of frequently asked questions. Later this fall, the DOE will release the Grade 4 and 8 exams from 2005.
"The FCAT is an important tool for measuring student progress and spurring academic improvement and achievement," said Governor Bush. "Providing students and parents with an actual test will increase their confidence in the state's process. I am thankful to the Florida teachers who are helping to develop and review test questions. I am also proud of the students who have shown great gains in reading and math over the last seven years."
The FCAT tests released today are identical to the tests taken by students with two exceptions: questions that will be used on future tests were removed and answer spaces were added into the released tests. Students typically use separate sheets to record their answers. To maintain the validity of future tests, individual students' answer documents were not released.
The released test will now serve as an additional resource to parents, educators and students. To further facilitate learning, parents also receive an annual score report for their child. These reports, designed to help share important progress information with parents, detail their child's scores, achievement levels and learning gains, along with the number of points earned by the student in each content area of the FCAT.
Since 1997, the DOE has provided hundreds of printed and online resources related to the FCAT, including annual releases of sample questions and a release of "half tests" in 2001. Parents, teachers and students are encouraged to use the newly released tests to review questions and passages, the difficulty of questions and the length of the test. While the released tests provide a hands-on experience with the FCAT, the DOE emphasized the importance of using the tests properly.
"Having the opportunity to see the actual tests should increase the comfort level of parents and students alike," said Commissioner Winn. "It is important to remember, however, that the released questions and passages will not be used again. Students should not be drilled on these questions in preparation for next year's FCAT or use the test to determine the specific subject area skills that will be tested in future FCAT administrations."
To release a previously administered test, the DOE invested more than $3 million over the past three years to develop enough test questions to retire and replace those shared publicly. It takes at least two years and approximately $2,000 to develop and tryout each question. To generate a complete exam, the DOE must develop more than twice the number of questions required. In 2003, the DOE received limited funding to begin increased development of additional questions for 22 tests.
"Question development takes time and money," added Commissioner Winn. "We have been working toward this day for several years, and it is just one of many steps we have taken to increase the transparency of FCAT and offer insight into the test's development process."
Test questions are written according to specific guidelines developed by Florida educators. A national assessment company, under contract with the DOE, employs professional writers to create the questions proposed for the FCAT. All test questions are reviewed and revised by Florida teachers, curriculum specialists and school/district administrators to ensure they are appropriate for the grade level tested. Each question accepted by Florida educators is then tried out with Florida students as a "trial" question before it is put on a test and scored. Proposed FCAT questions are also reviewed for bias, community sensitivity and statistical quality.
"I have been a part of the FCAT review process for nine years and have served on committees reviewing both the reading and writing exams," said Hillsborough County Middle School Language Art Supervisor and FCAT review committee participant Max Hutto. "FCAT has helped me understand the importance of having high expectations for all students and aligning assessment with the Sunshine State Standards. Since FCAT is a true, fair reflection of our standards, instruction should be driven by the assessment to ensure success for all Florida students."
Last year, 628 educators statewide participated in the FCAT question review process, which included close to 40 committees and 76 meetings over the course of 38 weeks. Each year, more than 500 classroom teachers, special education teachers, Limited English Proficiency instructors, administrators, curriculum specialists, policy leaders, college and university experts, school board members and parents take part in the review.
"As a university professor, it is important for me to keep up-to-date on the technical and policy issues related to large-scale assessment so I can pass that information along to my students," said Michigan State University professor and FCAT Technical Advisory Committee member Dr. Mark Reckase. "The FCAT is one of the best state testing programs in the country, and it serves as a good example of ways such programs should be implemented."
The State Board of Education has requested a $3 million recurring funding increase to allow for development of sufficient test questions to continue a three-year rolling release of tests (grades 3, 7, and 9 in fall 2006; grades 5 & 6 in fall 2007; grades 4 and 8 again in fall 2008) and to begin an annual release of the grade 10 FCAT.
The 2004 Grade 10 reading and mathematics FCAT is available on the Department of Education's website at www.fldoe.org.