Can the FCAT Experience Tell Us Something about the Common Core Assessment Implementations?

by Chevy Martin, Executive Editor, RedRock Reports

You may have heard—in Florida they changed the standards and raised the bar on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT this year. The result was only 27 percent of the state’s fourth graders passes the writing test compared with 81 percent who passed last year. Meanwhile in High School, only 52% of freshmen and 50% of sophomores passed the reading portion of the test. Sophomores must pass the test by senior year to graduate from high school.
Realizing that overall less than a third of Florida students would score proficient on the writing test, the state Board of Education voted to lower the bar for passing the writing portion of the test and the scores returned to the previous year’s range. What’s going on here?
First, the state of Florida strengthened its standards by adopting the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts on July 27, 2010. And secondly, they increased the levels at which students must score to be considered proficient. Finally, they changed the method of scoring and asked the scorers to be more stringent than in the past. What they didn’t do was provide guidance and professional development to Florida’s teachers in these changes—with a predictable result.
So what does this have to do with the Common Core Assessments? Forty states are scheduled to implement these assessments in the 2014-2015 school year—assessments that bear little resemblance to traditional high stakes testing. They will be delivered online and will include material on critical thinking as well as content and will use simulations among other interactive elements.
Given the raised standards and unfamiliar test content, are we looking forward to a national experience similar to that of Florida’s parents and students? Very likely, unless states take immediate action in preparing their teachers for the new tests. Florida, for example, needs writing programs beginning in early elementary school and they need reading programs for their high school students. Further review of the scores may help you identify other products from your company that would help prepare students. Professional development in teaching with the Common Core State Standards is a must.