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New Florida Exam Field Testing Will Take Place In Utah

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Updated By: Andy Alcock
April 16, 2014, 7pm

There's controversy tonight about where Florida will be field testing its new high stakes exam for public school students.

That field test will take place in Utah.

Students across Florida are getting ready to take the FCAT for the last time.

It will be replaced by a new unnamed test next school year.

To get an idea about how that exam might work, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced last month it will be field tested in Utah.

Unlike Florida where more than half the students are black or Hispanic, in Utah, more than three quarters of the students are white.

"If another state much similar to Florida had been selected, superintendents concerns would be far less than they are today," said Sen. Bill Montford, CEO Florida Superintendents Association.

A Department of Education spokesman says after field testing, all the questions go through multiple reviews to make sure they're suitable for all Florida students.

But for school districts, the main issue is getting ready to administer the test.

"We have absolutely no information at this point in time about what next year will entail for testing," said Gillian Gregory, Leon Co. Schools Testing Director.

And the stakes are very high.

The test will not only measure student performance, but also be part of how teachers are evaluated and paid and what grade a school is given.

"Over the last few years, the nature of the stakes have increased significantly," said Gregory.

"It's incumbent upon us as a state to make absolutely sure we get it right and get it right the first time," said Sen. Montford.

A Department of Education spokesman says it's unclear what the field testing will cost at this point.

However, she says the Department chose the least expensive and best option for the new standardized test.


"Okay what time does the clock say?" Janet Childers asked her class. "One oclock," the students responded.

Childers was teaching a class of first graders at Tallahassee's DeSoto Trail Elementary School about math through telling time.

For students in Florida's public schools, the times are rapidly changing.

The FCAT will soon be gone, to be replaced next year with a new test to measure student achievement.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart picked the American Institute of Research to administer that test.

And currently the state is negotiating a 6 year $220-million contract with that group.

"I think we are in a very good place," said Stewart. "I think we are focusing on moving forward and helping the students in the state of Florida," she said.

Part of that equation is a new set of learning standards for students.

The Education Department has made 99 changes to the federal Common Core standards, including calculus and cursive writing requirements.

"There's some very legitimate concerns about federal overreach and we want to do everything we can to make sure we're doing what's best for our students in Florida," said Stewart.

Another factor, lawmakers and the Florida Education Association teachers' union are weighing in on school grading or accountability.

The union wants a 3 year delay to get used to the new system.

"We're implementing new standards and we're having a new test and we haven't even had the training or time to get ready for the new standards to prepare the students," said FEA Vice-president Joanne McCall.

McCall also says schools teachers and students should never be judged on one single test.

Commissioner Stewart says she applauds the work lawmakers are currently doing on school accountability.


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