Florida's Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, has announced her decision for the non-profit, American Institutes for Research (AIR), to produce the new statewide assessment to replace FCAT 2.0.
The new test, to be administered in the 2014-2015 school year, will give "every student the opportunity to be college and career ready," according to Commissioner Stewart.
AIR was selected over four other proposals from ACT, McCann Associates, Pearson, and CTB/McGraw-Hill.
Features of the New Test:
The rationale behind the Commissioner's choice of AIR includes the test's close alignment to the Florida Standards, the lower cost compared to the current assessment and other possible tests, such as PARCC, and the ability for testing to be scheduled later in the school year. Most importantly, the Commissioner described how the new test promotes more critical and analytical thinking, better aligning to the state standards compared to the current FCAT 2.0 assessment.
Format of the New Test:
Although all the details of the test have not yet been released, the Commissioner has described how the new test will provide a more authentic assessment aligned with the Florida standards. The test will include performance-based items, such as creating graphs, and require responses beyond just multiple-choice options. The new test will more closely align with the more rigorous Florida Standards adopted by the Florida State Board of Education in February. Sample test items for the new test will be released this spring.
The Commissioner described in a press release that there will be gradual implementation of the test as a computer-based assessment, until then paper and pencil testing will be used.
Cost of the New Test:
The cost of the AIR test will be less per student than the current FCAT 2.0 assessment and publically released costs for either PARCC or Smarter Balanced. The AIR test will cost $18.38 per student for the Math and English Language Arts portions. After adding the cost of the other required state assessments for science and end-of-course exams the total cost per student will be $34.23. Overall the cost to the state as a result of the contract with AIR will be $220 million over six years.
Comparing the New Test to Other States:
In a press release earlier today, the Commissioner stated that items that could be used on the AIR produced test in Florida are being field tested in Utah. Although it is unclear at this time whether the test will be directly comparable to other states, the Commissioner explained that AIR's test items are being used in several states, which might lead to opportunities for comparison in the future.
Knowing that AIR is field testing items in Utah and that the state of Utah is rolling out the SAGE assessment, there can be some conclusions made about the type of testing we in Florida might expect from AIR. Even though the tests from Utah will not be identical to Florida since the tests align to different state standards, the following links provide some insight into what the test and some of its items may look like.
With many details yet to be unveiled, including the name of the new test itself, there is much to learn in the upcoming weeks.
Some of the key questions to ask about the new assessment include:
- How does the new test compare to FCAT 2.0?
- When first administered, how will the new test be linked to last year's FCAT 2.0 test for the purpose of third grade retention and tenth grade graduation requirements?
- How will growth be calculated from the FCAT 2.0 test to the new test once administered?
- Will students' performance on the test be able to be compared with the performance of students in other states?
- How will the transition to the new assessment impact teacher evaluation?
-- Kelly Turner