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Florida’s Education Standards

Computer-Based Assessments

FCAT 2.0

FCAT 2.0 Writing Test

For Parents Of Third-Graders

Common Core State Standards

What Teachers Need To Know

Algebra 1 End of Course Assessment Q & A

School Grades Q and A

Q: What is the State of Education in Florida?

A decade ago, Florida schools were ranked near the bottom nationally, and our students were at a disadvantage when competing against those from most other states. Through a careful process of raising standards and measuring student progress, Florida students have made impressive gains. That same survey that once ranked Florida near the bottom now puts us at No. 11 among all 50 states.

We still have further to go, and that’s why we’re raising standards. It’s the right thing to do for our students.

Q: Why does Florida insist that testing is good for our schools and children?

A: Testing by itself will not improve our schools—and that’s not what we’re advocating. But, using well-designed tests to measure student progress toward a set of clear and high academic standards is sound educational practice, and it works. The FCAT measures whether or not a student is meeting those standards.

Q: While the end goal may be to genuinely prepare our young people for the future, how will teaching to the test do this?

A:  We do not want – or ask – teachers to teach to the test. We want educators to teach to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, which they helped create. If students can meet the expectations of the standards, then the test will take care of itself.

These new standards require students to dive deeper into and learn more about important concepts instead of learning bits and pieces about lots of concepts.  Students will need to demonstrate real skills and knowledge, not just an ability to pass a test. Our new standards require students to think critically, to work cooperatively, and to problem solve creatively—skills critical for success in the workplace and for the jobs of tomorrow.

It’s the standards—not the FCAT—that make this possible. We must prepare Florida’s children to be competitors in their local community, in the state, in the nation and the global economy, and through our dedicated teachers, new standards and assessments, that will happen.

Q: Should you be worried if your child dropped in performance on this year’s FCAT?

The FCAT 2.0 assesses the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, which set expectations of what Florida public school students should learn by grade level in each subject. On December 19, 2011, the State Board of Education established new Achievement Level standards for FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics.  Spring 2012 is the first time results will be reported according to these new standards. Because the FCAT 2.0 is based on more demanding content standards and the achievement standards are more rigorous, scores may appear lower on the new scale than on the previous scale for certain grades and subjects.

If your child’s score is now in a lower Achievement Level (e.g., if a child has dropped from Achievement Level 3 to Achievement Level 2), we encourage you to discuss your concerns with the teacher or your child’s guidance counselor.  You are encouraged to use these scores as a point of conversation with the teacher or school to best determine the next steps in helping your child achieve his or her academic goals.  It’s important to keep lines of communication open with your child’s teacher(s). Let them know if you are worried about your child’s score and ask what your options are to help your child improve.

Please know that this is an effort to prepare your student for success after high school, in college, in the workplace, and in life. Raising standards and measuring students’ progress toward the standards is the right thing to do.  You can find more information about your student’s report on the Department’s website in Understanding FCAT 2.0 Reports Spring 2012.

Q: What can you do to help your child be prepared for next year?

Work with your child’s teacher and make sure that your student has the support they need to move forward. There are many resources available at the state and local level that support parent involvement in education. It’s worth a trip to your school or community center to increase your level of involvement and understanding of your child’s educational needs.

For additional information and resources please visit here.

Q: Isn’t toughening the standards without giving kids more help and resources to meet them just setting them up to fail?

No. Florida would never pursue a system that would set its children up for failure. Florida education leaders, including our commissioner of education, school superintendents, school principals and school boards are committed to providing teachers and students the resources they need to be successful in the classroom. Struggling students have access to a host of help and support, summer Reading camps, longer school days, after school tutoring, and individualized education planning involving their parents and teachers.

Florida has not established new achievement levels in reading and mathematics for more than 10 years. The world has changed a lot since then, and it’s time to raise the bar. Florida teachers helped write and approve the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, which will help them better understand their student’s needs and help us focus our resources in ways to better support schools and teachers.

Q: How many third graders will be held back under these tougher standards?

Some students will need additional help in reaching these new standards. We estimate that as many as perhaps 14 percent of third graders will not meet the new reading standards and may have to repeat third grade. Learning to read is the most critical skill a child learns in the early years of school, and it can truly affect their life’s trajectory. Statistics show that if a child has not mastered basic reading skills by third grade, they have a one in four chance of eventually dropping out of high school.  But if you can get a third grader reading proficiently, they will graduate 96 percent of the time. Holding a student back in order to help the student master reading is painful in the short term, but is clearly the right thing to do for children over the long haul.  Click here to learn more about Florida’s third grade reading focus.

Q: What will happen to students who may be held back?

Schools are making plans to get these students the help and support they need, such as summer reading camps, longer school days, and individualized education planning involving their parents and teachers.

Q: What is the state going to do to ensure schools and teachers have the resources they need to help kids meet the standards?

Lawmakers added $1 billion to the state budget for schools next year to ensure that students and teachers have the resources needed to master the new higher standards. And the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards will give us honest feedback on where students stand. That will help the state, schools, and teachers better determine how and where we should focus our resources so that students get the help they need to succeed.

Q: What is the state doing to hold parents accountable?

Obviously, parents play a critical role in the success of their children, probably more than any other factor.  And Florida strives to give parents the resources they need to raise happy, healthy kids. But, as educators, our role is to direct resources and efforts toward what matters most inside the school, and that’s quality teaching and high standards for all kids. Parents are important, but good schools and teachers are too.

Q: Why will some school’s grades drop this year?

For the first time in 10 years, Florida has raised the bar for passing scores on the FCAT. As a result, scores dropped this year, and so did many schools’ grades. That does not mean Florida’s children know less than before, or that teachers are doing a bad job. Anytime standards are raised, some students will struggle to meet the new expectations. That’s what happened this year. We are confident, though, that overtime teachers and schools will sharpen their focus and develop successful strategies to get more kids over the higher bar.  These school grades provide a clear picture of where we as a state need to focus improvement so all students are receiving an education focused on the skills and knowledge today’s economy demands.

Q: How do we know that raising standards is what we need to do?

We know this from our own experience here in Florida. When we first implemented the old Sunshine State Standards, Florida schools were not held in high regard—one report ranked us third from the bottom, nationally. Florida’s students were at a disadvantage when competing against those from most other states.

Through a careful process of raising standards and measuring student progress, Florida is now 11th from the top – among all 50 states. That’s clear evidence that what we are doing is working, but it’s also a sign that improvements on this scale take a long time and require that everyone stay committed to the task at hand.

We still have a ways to go, and that’s why we’re raising standards. It’s the right thing to do for our students.

Q: What are Florida High School graduation requirements?

Learn about High School requirements by clicking here.

Q:  What are Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Mathematics (“the Standards”) are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to create the next generation of K–12 standards to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.

The Standards also draw on the most important international models as well as research and input from numerous sources, including state departments of education, scholars, assessment developers, professional organizations, educators from kindergarten through college, and parents, students, and other members of the public. Click here to learn more about Common Core State Standards.

To learn more and continue the conversation about education in Florida please visit  our Online Parent Community

FLORIDA’s EDUCATION STANDARDS

Q: What are education standards?

Standards define what students should know in certain subjects from kindergarten through grade 12.  Education standards provide teachers, students and parents clear goals for student learning. By having standards, we ensure teachers know what they need to teach to help every student be successful.

Florida has adopted standards in eight subject areas:

  • Language Arts (which includes reading and writing)
  • Science
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • Physical Education
  • Health
  • Foreign Language

Only Reading, Writing, Science, and Math are assessed on the statewide assessment test (FCAT).

Q: Why do we need standards?

We need standards so our teachers know what material they need to teach each year.  We need standards to ensure that all students, regardless of where they go to school in Florida, are prepared for success after high school. Standards help guide teachers in the classroom – they help teachers build their lesson plans around a set of core concepts.

Q: When did Florida first adopt education standards?

Florida had basic standards in the 1980’s.  In 1993, the state began developing more rigorous standards called the Sunshine State Standards.  These were adopted by the State Board of Education in 1996.

 Q:  How is Florida raising standards?

Florida is raising standards in two ways: the testing of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards that began in 2011, and the raising of the passing scores on the reading and mathematics FCAT.  It’s been 10 years since Florida first set the passing scores on FCAT in reading and mathematics. Think of how the world has changed since then—smartphones and GPS devices didn’t exist and Pluto was still classified as the ninth planet.  Florida is long overdue for a change .

Q:  Why is Florida raising standards now?

It’s been 10 years since Florida first set the passing scores on FCAT in reading and mathematics and Florida is overdue for a change. Starting in the 2014-15 school year, more than 40 states – including Florida – will implement the Common Core State Standards- a set of common, world-class standards that are much more demanding than what we ask of students now.  Florida is implementing new, tougher standards now to help better prepare our students and schools for the even higher expectations that they will be required to meet in 2015.

For more information on Common Core State Standards, click here.

Q: What are the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards?

The Next Generation Sunshine State Standards are the newer, updated version of the Sunshine State Standards, which were created in 1996. The Next Generation Sunshine State Standards define the knowledge and skills each student must master in eight subject areas.  In 2008, every member of the Florida Legislature voted yes to have the Department of Education develop these standards to ensure that students are learning the knowledge and skills needed for college and careers in the 21st century.

Q: Who created the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards?

Florida educators, business leaders and parents created the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. During 2008 and 2009, the Department of Education asked more than 1200 math and language arts teachers to participate in a process that lasted 13 months to develop Florida’s standards. These educators were teachers in kindergarten through grade 12 and college level educators.

For each content area stakeholders including business, educators from all levels and parents, provided input on their development. Thousands of teachers in math, reading English Language Arts and subject area experts participated in a process that lasted approximately 13 months.  The number of education experts involved in test development includes:

  • 20 framer’s committee members
  • 5 external experts
  • 22 writer’s committee members
  • 43,025 ratings of benchmarks through online review process from state holders including teachers and including input from all school district
  • 1,391 raters completed the profile and included:
    • 50 administrators
    • 32 district staff
    • 37 “other interested persons”
    • 26 parents
    • 1,242 teachers
    • 15 expert review panelists
    • 7 reviewers from the business community
    • 22 depth of knowledge raters

Computer-Based Assessments

Q: Will my child be taking a computer-based assessment test this year?

In spring 2013, the following FCAT 2.0 assessments will be computer-based only (with paper versions for students whose individual education plans [IEPs] call for this accommodation):

  • Grade 5 Mathematics
  • Grade 6 Reading
  • Grade 7 Reading
  • Grade 9 Reading
  • Grade 10 Reading
  • Reading Retake

Q: How will teachers prepare students for the computer-based test?

Schools are required to administer practice test sessions for students who will participate in a computer-based test.  The practice test, also called an ePAT, familiarizes students with the computer-based testing platform, walking them through what the test will look like, the tools that are available for students, such as highlighters, eliminate-choice tool, calculators (grade-specific), and how to respond to test items.   You may also access the ePATs to see what your student will encounter during testing or encourage her or him to practice at home.  The ePATs and installer software are located at www.FLAssessments.com/ePAT.

Q: Does the computer-based test take longer than the paper-based test?

No. The same amount of time is allotted for each grade-level/subject area test session.

Q: Are there enough computers for all the students?

The Florida Department of Education requires each school to complete an online scheduling tool for each assessment to demonstrate that they have enough computers for each participating student.

Q: Will my child be rushed to complete the test if other students complete the test first and are waiting?

No. Test administrators are required to give the exact amount of allotted time for each test session.  Students are not dismissed until the end of this time, even if they complete the test early.

Q: How will it be different from the paper-based test?

There are no differences between the content of the computer-based and paper-based version of a subject test.

Q: Will this allow me to receive my child’s score faster?

While computer-based testing can facilitate faster score reporting, scores for all FCAT 2.0 assessments, computer-based and paper-based, are released on the same schedule to allow time for the Department of Education to perform quality-control checks.

Q:  Will my child be able to use paper and pencil to work problems for the mathematics test?

Yes. Each student taking a computer-based mathematics test is provided a four-page, hard-copy work folder to use as scratch paper. The last page of the folder has graph paper printed on it.

Q: Is the Florida Department of Education moving to have all assessment tests computer-based?

Almost all statewide assessments are scheduled to be computer-based by the 2014-2015 school year.

Q: What if there is a problem with the technology?

Sometimes technological issues occur during testing, and the Department of Education and Pearson (the testing company) provide detailed instructions and guidance to handle such issues. We work closely with districts to provide assistance to resolve problems quickly and resume testing in a timely manner. In the rare event that an issue is not able to be resolved on the day of testing, the district assessment coordinator will contact the department to determine the best solution for each student, depending on the circumstances.

Q: What will students experience when taking the computer-based assessments?

Students will be required to participate in a practice test to become familiar with the testing tools and platform prior to the day of testing, and this practice test will be available online for students to practice on their own.

On the day of testing, a student will log in to the test by using the unique username and password information on the student authorization ticket. Once the student is logged in to the test, he or she will not be able to access any other applications on the computer. A student will be able to change his or her answers at any time until the student submits the test. For timed assessments, the test administrator will be responsible for ensuring that the student is provided the appropriate amount of time.

The tools and resources available to students will vary slightly depending on the content area and grade level being assessed. All students will have access to the following e-tools:

  • Review: Students may use this e-tool to  mark items to review at a later time. Before exiting the test and  submitting their responses, students will be taken to a screen that lists  items that are answered, unanswered, and marked for review.
  • Eliminate Choice: Students may use this tool to  mark through answer choices that they wish to eliminate.
  • Highlighter: Students may highlight sections  of an item or passage.
  • Eraser: Students may use the eraser to remove marks made by the highlighter or the eliminate-choice tool.
  • Help: Students may click the Help icon to learn more about the  e-tools. The Help text appears  in a separate window.

FCAT 2.0 Reading (Grades 6, 7, 9, 10, and Retake)

In addition to the tools available to all students, the following tool will be provided:

  • Notepad: Students may use the notepad to  make notes on a particular passage or question for later reference. Each  passage and question has its own notepad, so any notes a student makes  remain with that passage or question.

In addition to this tool, students are also provided with a hard-copy worksheet for note-taking.

FCAT 2.0 Mathematics (Grade 5)

  • Straightedge: Students are provided a straightedge e-tool, which looks like a ruler without measuring units.  Students use the straightedge as they would use the edge of a piece of  paper to help them work a problem.
  • Reference Sheet: Students will be provided a reference sheet of commonly used formulas and conversions to work the test  questions. This tool is also referred to as the Exhibit tool.

In addition to these tools, students also get work folders to use as scratch paper to work the problems.

Q: On the paper-based test, my child could go back and review and change answers. Will she be able to do that on the computer-based test? 

Yes.  Students may use the back button in the test to go back to previous items. Students are also able to go to an item review screen that displays a list of items and whether they have been answered.  Students may click on any item and return to that item. Finally, the platform has a feature that allows students to mark items for review later. A flag appears on the item itself and next to the question number on the item review screen.

To learn more and continue the conversation about education in Florida please visit  our Online Parent Community

FCAT 2.0

Q: Why do we have a statewide test?

Florida has a statewide test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test 2.0 (FCAT 2.0), in order to measure student progress toward a set of clear and high academic standards. The FCAT 2.0 measures whether or not a student is moving closer to meeting those standards. The best understanding of a student’s academic achievement comes from looking at multiple pieces of evidence, including test scores, collected over time.

Q: When will my child take the FCAT 2.0?

Students take FCAT 2.0 Writing no earlier than the week of March 1st and FCAT 2.0 Reading, Mathematics, and Science no earlier than the week of April 15th each school year. This school year, students take FCAT 2.0 Writing from February 26 – 27, 2013, and FCAT 2.0 Reading, Mathematics, and Science from April 15 – 26, 2013, with Retakes beginning on April 8th. A Retake test administration also occurs in the fall each year for students who still need to pass it for graduation purposes. The testing schedules are currently available for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.

Q: Will my child be taking the FCAT 2.0 on the computer?

Certain grades and subjects tested by the FCAT 2.0 are computer-based. For reading, grades 6, 7, 9, 10, and students retaking the grade 10 test, will take the FCAT 2.0 on the computer. For mathematics, grade 5 will take the FCAT 2.0 on the computer. Please see the  transition schedule for information about future tests that will transition to computer-based testing.

Q: Does my child’s FCAT 2.0 score impact his/her class grades or promotion to the next grade level?

Florida’s FCAT 2.0 tests do not impact students’ grades or whether or not they are promoted to the next grade, except in 3rd grade.

In 2002, Florida began requiring retention for students who could not read successfully at the end of the 3rd grade. Students who score at the lowest level (Level 1 on FCAT 2.0 reading) are retained unless they meet one of the good cause exemptions or demonstrate in another way that they can read successfully.

There are six good cause exemptions identified in law.  Many of the exemptions recognize special needs of students with disabilities, English language learners or students who were previously retained.  However, there are two exemptions provided because Florida recognized that one test given on one day should not be the sole factor in retaining a child.

Students who do not pass the FCAT 2.0 can move on to the 4th grade by scoring successfully on an alternative test, or by demonstrating reading success through a teacher-administered portfolio of the student’s work during the school year or summer reading camp.

Q:  Does my child’s FCAT score impact his/her ability to get a standard high school diploma?

Yes. For more than thirty years, Florida has required students to pass an “exit exam” in order to receive a high school diploma.

A student’s graduation requirements are based on the requirements in effect for the school year in which the student enrolls in grade 9 for the first time. This year’s 12th graders on a 24-credit program option are the final graduating class required to pass the grade 10 tests under the passing standards for the FCAT in both reading and math. All students enrolling in grade 9 in 2010-11 and after must pass the FCAT 2.0 in reading. Students have opportunities to take the exam during the sophomore, junior and senior years. Students can also meet the testing requirement by scoring at a certain level on either the ACT or SAT, which are widely accepted college entrance exams. Students and parents should review the graduation requirements and concordant test scores at  Florida’s Graduation Requirements  to confirm the passing requirements.

For the 2011-12 school year, 9th grade students and lower will have to pass an end of course exam in Algebra 1 in order to receive a credit. For the 2012-13 school year, 9th grade students and lower will have to pass the end of course exams in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Biology 1 to receive credits towards a high school diploma.

Q:  Who develops the FCAT 2.0 questions?

Every year, the Department of Education uses a professional test development company to develop new FCAT 2.0 questions.

Then, committees of educators and other experts review each and every test question before it is ever placed in front of a student as a part of the FCAT 2.0 test. Over 300 Florida educators serve on these committees each year.

Q: How are the FCAT 2.0 questions reviewed?

Committees of educators review each and every test question before it is ever placed in front of a student as part of the FCAT test. Annually, more than 300 Florida educators serve on these committees.

The questions go through a two-year development process before they are included on a student’s test.  They are also thoroughly reviewed for accuracy, alignment to standards, bias, sensitivity, and validity.

There are five subject area review committees: reading, mathematics, science, social studies, and writing.

The teachers who serve on these subject area committees review each question to make sure it is accurate, appropriate for the grade level being tested, and aligned to the state standards for that subject and grade level.

All questions then go through a bias committee comprised of a diverse group of Florida educators.  This committee reviews questions to make sure no question is biased for or against students based upon race, gender or geographical location.  For example, a question that asks students what does the expression “that dog don’t hunt” mean would be determined to be biased in favor of students in North Florida who are more likely to hunt and against students in South Florida where hunting is not as common.

All questions also go through a sensitivity committee, comprised of representatives from parent organizations, community-based organizations, cultural groups (e.g., Hispanic or Native American), statewide religious organizations, school boards, school district advisory council members, and leaders in business and industry from across the state. This committee reviews questions to make sure no offensive language or situations are presented within the question. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, questions related to hurricanes or to girls named Katrina may have been removed from the test because of the stress these questions may cause on students taking the test.

Any one person on these committees can raise concerns about a test question.  Those concerns are seriously considered and addressed before deciding whether to use the test question.

When the question first appears on a student’s test, it is called a “field-test question” which means the students are asked to answer the question, but that question is not used/calculated in the student’s overall score on the FCAT 2.0.

All of these field-test questions then go through a final, technical validity review committee.  This committee reviews the “statistics” of the question – how did the students actually do answering the question?  If too many students miss the question or too many students get the question correct, the question could be eliminated because it may be too easy or too hard.

This thorough process for how FCAT 2.0 test questions are developed and reviewed has become a model that other states try to use in the development of their state tests.

Q: Who serves on the FCAT 2.0 review committees?

The FCAT 2.0 review committees are primarily made up of Florida teachers; however, principals, subject-area experts, and community leaders are asked to serve each year as well.

Committee membership is balanced, based on where each member lives, their ethnic origin, and the size of the county they represent in order to ensure a diverse and representative group of test question reviewers.

To learn more and continue the conversation about education in Florida please visit  our Online Parent Community

FCAT 2.0  Writing Test

Q: What is the passing score for a student?

There is no “passing” score for FCAT 2.0 Writing. Students receive scores on a 1 to 6 point scale.The percentage of students scoring at 3.5 or above is used as a component to calculate school grades.

Q: Why did the name of the assessment change to FCAT 2.0 Writing?

In the 2012-13 school year, the test name became FCAT 2.0 Writing to indicate changes to the assessment. Higher scoring expectations were implemented in 2012, and students receive more time to respond to the writing prompt than in previous years.

In addition to the elements of focus, organization, support, and conventions described in the rubrics, which will continue to be used through spring 2014, scorers now pay greater attention to the correct use of standard English conventions and the quality of details, requiring relevant, logical, and plausible support. While the rubrics have always included expectations regarding the basic conventions of standard English, in the past scoring of this element was applied leniently. Additionally, support quality depends on word choice, specificity, depth, relevance, and thoroughness. Responses earning high scores must include specific and relevant supporting details that clarify the meaning, i.e., the point of the paragraph or the central theme of the response. Rote memorization or overusing compositional techniques, such as rhetorical questions, implausible statistics, or pretentious language, is not appropriate for quality writing at any grade level. Responses are scored holistically as draft writing, but basic conventions and support quality are scored more stringently.

In 2013, students have 60 minutes to respond to the writing prompt instead of 45 minutes. The 2012 FCAT Writing comment forms showed that Florida educators observed students needed more time to respond to writing prompts in order to satisfy higher scoring expectations. The FCAT 2.0 Writing Content Advisory Committee, composed of Florida educators, recommended increasing the time.

Sample student essays for each score point for FCAT 2.0 Writing are available at 2013 FCAT 2.0 Writing Calibration Scoring Guides.

Q: Will the scoring rubrics be changed to mode-specific scoring rubrics in 2013?

No. The scoring rubrics will not be changed to mode-specific rubrics. Scoring will continue to be aligned to the 2013 FCAT 2.0 Writing Calibration Scoring Guides.

Q: Do misspelled words in a student’s response affect the score more negatively than in the past?

Spelling is one aspect of demonstrating knowledge of standard English conventions. Although spelling is considered in scoring, a large number of misspelled commonly used words can impact the score. If a student takes a compositional risk by including words that are not commonly used at his or her grade level, and such words are misspelled, that will not affect scoring negatively. For example, if a grade 4 student generally spells commonly used words correctly and chooses to write about a rhinoceros but misspells this word throughout the response, the scoring will not be negatively affected. Students should allow time for proofreading to correct inadvertent misspellings and edit for incorrect use of other conventions of standard English.

Q: What are the expectations for high scores on the writing assessment?

The quality of the response, rather than the appearance or length of the response, is part of Florida’s scoring criteria. Although responses receiving high scores are not perfect, the writing demonstrates overall control of the following elements:
•  efficient planning, drafting, revising, and editing;

•  clear and consistent focus on the topic that establishes and maintains a main idea, theme, or unifying point in the response;

•  effective organization for the writing purpose, including internal transitions that help the reader understand how paragraphs work together, reference one another, and build to a larger point;

•  sufficient, specific, and relevant development of support, i.e., elaboration that includes concrete details and pertinent information that helps the reader construct mental images;

•  clear, precise word choice that provides a natural, reasonable, and consistent tone to the response, rather than sudden bursts of elevated, contrived use of vocabulary, or discordant use of creative writing strategies;

•  various sentence structures and styles that add compositional facility and rhythm to the response, allow emphasis of critical points, and create interest for the reader;

•  overall control of the basic conventions of standard English; and

•  purposeful use of elements that promote the intended narrative, persuasive, or expository purpose for writing.

Q: Which organizational format is preferred for FCAT 2.0 Writing?

A critical part of effective writing is clear, logical organization. Florida’s scoring criteria do not mandate a particular style, number of paragraphs, or organizational structure. Before deciding which organizational structure would be the most effective way to present information, the student should think about the purpose for writing and who will be reading the response. Although some methods of organization lend themselves to a particular purpose for writing (such as chronological order for narration and order of importance for persuasion), such patterns are not exclusive to those writing purposes. The choice of organizational pattern and transitional devices should provide order to the information presented and allow the reader to understand connections between and among ideas.

Q: Where can educators, students, and the public find a resource that illustrates scoring expectations?

Examples of student responses are available at http://fcat.fldoe.org/writing-prompts.asp. Developed in collaboration with Florida educators, the FCAT 2.0 Writing Calibration Scoring Guides, 2012 FCAT Writing Anchor Sets, and 2012 FCAT Writing Exemplar Sets on that site illustrate how scorers will base their decisions for FCAT 2.0 Writing through 2014.

Q: Can educators use the 2012 FCAT Writing Anchor Sets on the department’s website for 2013 staff development purposes?

Yes. The 2012 FCAT Writing Anchor Sets are aligned to the FCAT 2.0 Writing Calibration Scoring Guides and can be used as an additional resource for staff-development purposes. The responses in each anchor set are based on prompts administered in 2012 and provide an understanding of student scores for narrative (grade 4) and persuasive (grades 8 and 10) writing purposes.

Q: Are the skills expected for Florida’s writing assessment aligned to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS) and to Florida’s implementation plan of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts?

Yes. Both the NGSSS and the CCSS describe what students should know and be able to do in writing. Beginning in the 2011-12 school year, educators began implementing CCSS with kindergarten students, followed by grade 1 in 2012-13, and grade 2 in 2013-14. In 2013-14, the instructional focus for grades 3–12 include blending the appropriate NGSSS with the CCSS so that students are prepared for the last testing cycle of FCAT 2.0 as well as common core assessments in English Language Arts. You can see Florida’s Common Core State Standards implementation timeline at  Florida’s Common Core State Standards Implementation Timeline .

Q: What expectations are there for students now that there is more time for the writing assessment?

For the 60-minute timed writing assessment, students are expected to read the prompt independently and plan the response according to the topic and purpose for writing (grade 4 narrative or expository, grades 8 and 10 persuasive or expository). After planning, the student should draft the response revising it as he or she continues, checking to be sure the writing is clear and effective. Finally, the student should proofread the response and edit it for correct use of standard English conventions.

Q: Will the planning sheet be scored? Will the writing folder contain more pages on which to write?

No. The planning sheet will not be scored. It is provided as a tool to allow the student to think about the prompt and the purpose for writing and then plan the response accordingly.

There will not be additional pages in the FCAT 2.0 Writing folder.

Q: What changed on last year’s FCAT Writing test?

Since 1992, Florida’s writing test was simply an essay.  Students were scored on a scale of 1 to 6 and the “rubric” or scoring system was based upon things like:  Does the student present a main idea?   Does the student use multiple arguments to present his or her main idea?  Does the student’s essay have a conclusion that restates the main idea?

Prior to 2012, student’s essays were not scored based upon spelling, vocabulary, correct punctuation or grammar.  In other words, a student could have a very high writing score even though the essay may have been filled with misspelled words and incorrect grammar.

Again this year, spelling, vocabulary, punctuation and grammar are included in how the student’s essay is scored.  Additionally, scorers look at whether or not the student made logical supporting statements in their essay, not just that students made multiple supporting statements.

The new method for scoring FCAT 2.0 Writing will ensure Florida’s students are better prepared for success in college or in a career.

Q: How are Florida’s writing tests scored?

Two different individuals independently read each and every student’s essay.  If the two reviewers score the student’s essay with the same score, that is the score for the student’s essay.

If the two reviewers score the student’s essay within one point of each other, the student gets an average of the two scores.  In other words, if one reviewer gives the student a 3 and the other reviewer gives the student a 4, the student will receive a score of 3.5.

If the two reviewers score the student’s essay differently, but their separate scores are more than one point different (i.e., one gives the student a 3 and the other gives the student a 5), then a third reviewer is brought in to review the student’s essay.  If the third reviewer matches one of the prior reviewer’s scores, then that is the score the student receives.   If the third reviewer scores within one point of one of the prior reviewers, the averaging process is once again used.

There are quality checkpoints all through the process of scoring student’s essays to ensure that all the individuals reviewing the scores are accurately and faithfully following the scoring guidelines.

Q:  What are the qualifications of the individuals who score the FCAT 2.0 writing essays?

Individuals who score the writing test must have bachelor’s degrees in a related writing field.  For example, they could have bachelor’s degrees in English, in Creative Writing, in Journalism, etc.

Approximately 20 percent of the reviewers have degrees in education. Every reviewer goes through a detailed training process on Florida’s writing test and the scoring guidelines.  These scorers must qualify to score student essays and maintain high standards to remain a scorer in good standing. And there are quality checks throughout the scoring process to ensure each student’s score is accurate.

To learn more and continue the conversation about education in Florida please visit  our Online Parent Community

FOR PARENTS OF THIRD-GRADERS

Q: What are the Grade 3 FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics Achievement Level ranges?

For information regarding third grade achievement level ranges and promotion options click here.

Q: Does my child’s FCAT score impact his or her grades or promotion to the next grade?

FCAT does not impact student’s grades; however, it does impact whether or not a 3rd grade student is promoted to the next grade.

In 2002, Florida required retention for students who could not read successfully by the end of the 3rd grade. Students who score at the lowest level on FCAT reading (known as a Level 1) are to be retained unless the student meets a good cause exemption or demonstrates in another way that the student can read successfully.

There are six good cause exemptions identified in law.  Many of the exemptions recognize special needs of students with disabilities, English language learners or students who were previously retained.  However, there are two additional exemptions provided because Florida recognized that one test given on one day should not be the sole factor in retaining a child.

Students who do not pass the FCAT can move on to the 4th grade by scoring successfully on an alternative test, or by demonstrating reading success through a teacher-administered portfolio of the student’s work during the school year or summer reading camp.

Q: How many 3rd graders will be held back under these tougher standards?

Keeping in mind that some students will be promoted to 4th grade through a good cause exemption, historically less than 10% of all students enrolled that score at Level 1 will be retained.  Those students will need additional help in reaching these new standards, and will be required to repeat 3rd grade. Learning to read is the most critical skill a child learns in the early years of school, and it can truly affect their life’s trajectory. The fact is, students who can’t read in the 3rd grade typically don’t “catch up” in later grades. Instead, they fall further behind.  Promoting students who don’t have the skills to succeed is the wrong thing to do.

Q: How can one test on one day determine if a 3rd grader is retained?

One test does not determine whether a 3rd grade student is retained.  There are six good cause exemptions identified in law.  Many of the exemptions recognize special needs of students with disabilities, English language learners or students who were previously retained.  However, there are two exemptions provided because Florida recognized that one test given on one day should not be the sole factor in retaining a child.

Students who do not pass the FCAT can move on to the 4th grade by scoring successfully on an alternative test, or by demonstrating reading success through a teacher administered portfolio of the student’s reading tests during the school year.

Q: What will happen to retained students and how will schools handle the increase?

School districts are already required by law to give intensive reading instruction to students who are struggling readers in kindergarten through 3rd grade.   Schools are constantly working to provide these students with the help and support they need.   Summer reading camps, longer school days, and individualized education planning involving their parents and teachers are just some of the ways that teachers meet the needs of struggling readers.

Children who have not mastered basic reading skills by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than those children who are reading on grade level. However, if you can get a 3rd grader reading proficiently, they will graduate 96 percent of the time.  Holding a student back in order to help them master reading can be painful in the short term, but is clearly the right thing to do for children over the long haul.

Q:  Is there research on the impact of retention?

Yes.  Research on retention policies that are based on a student’s test score and include intensive reading intervention during the retention year, shows positive effects.

In fact, researchers who have studied Florida’s retention policies have found that retained students perform better in reading and math – even through the 7th grade – than their socially promoted classmates.  The interventions in that second year in 3rd grade improved their reading skills enough to make a big difference.

Q: Why does Florida have a 3rd grade reading policy?

Researchers at the Annie E. Casey Foundation have found that 88 percent of the students who dropped out of high school could not read by the end of 3rd grade.

Students who cannot read successfully by the end of 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of high school than students who can read.

Low-income African American and Hispanic students who can’t read successfully by the end of 3rd grade are 8 times more likely to drop out of high school than students who can read.

From kindergarten through 3rd grade, students are learning how to read.  Beginning in 4th grade the text and assignments that are required for students to read and complete are more difficult.

Textbooks become more difficult to understand, reading passages are longer, and questions are harder. Students use reference books, websites, and other written materials to do research for history reports, science projects, and other schoolwork. Students who have trouble understanding what they read find it very difficult to keep up. Many students become frustrated when they try to tackle this schoolwork without the necessary reading skills.

So, Florida adopted a policy to guarantee our students have the fundamental reading skills in order to be successful in 4th grade and beyond, where the rigors of reading in other subject areas increase drastically.

To learn more and continue the conversation about education in Florida please visit  our Online Parent Community

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

Q: What are Common Core State Standards?

Common Core State Standards are a state-led effort to establish clear world-class educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt.  More than 45 states have adopted Common Core State Standards in these two subjects.  In 2009, Florida adopted Common Core State Standards.

Common Core standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Q: When will Common Core State Standards be used in Florida’s classrooms?

In the 2014-15 school year, all Florida’s schools in grades kindergarten through grade 12 will be using Common Core State Standards.

Q: How are Common Core State Standards different from Florida’s current standards?

Both the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards have been described as being “fewer, higher, and clearer” than our old standards.

For example, under Florida’s old Sunshine State Standards, students in kindergarten needed to count from 1 to 36.

Under the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, kindergarten students must be able to count to 20 out loud, in writing, and using objects (baseballs, blocks, etc.).

Under the Common Core State Standards, students in kindergarten need to count up to 100, starting at any number.  And they need to be able to count backwards starting at 10.

Q: Who created the Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core State Standard Initiative involved governors and state education commissioners from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. Common Core standards have been designed by a diverse group of teachers, experts, parents, and school administrators.

Teachers have been a critical voice in the development of the standards. The National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), among other organizations have been instrumental in bringing together teachers to provide specific, constructive feedback on the standards.

Q: Does the FCAT measure Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and Common Core State Standards?

The FCAT (now called FCAT 2.0) has been changed to measure how our students have progressed on the newer standards – the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

In 2014-15, Florida will use different tests to measure how our students have progressed on the Common Core State Standards.  Florida is part of a group of states called the Partnership for Assessments of Readiness in College and Careers (PARCC).  This group of states are developing common tests to measure the common set of standards.

Q: Why is it important that we have Common Core State Standards?

Common Core State Standards are benchmarked to international standards to guarantee that Florida’s students are prepared to be competitive with students from other countries.  In today’s economy Florida students will have to compete in a global marketplace against students from China, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Most of the top jobs in America today did not even exist a decade ago. These new standards will ensure that we maintain America’s competitive edge, so that all of our students are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with not only their peers here at home, but with students from around the world.

Q: When will Florida begin testing Common Core State Standards?

Florida’s schools will begin testing Common Core State Standards in 2014-15.  But Florida’s students will be well-positioned for this change because of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

Basically, Florida is taking a step toward Common Core State Standards now, so our students will be even better prepared when 2014-15 arrives and most of the country moves to the new Common Core State Standards.

To learn more and continue the conversation about education in Florida please visit  our Online Parent Community

WHAT TEACHERS NEED TO KNOW

Q: Why is Florida changing standards?

Florida’s old standards (Sunshine State Standards) were described as “an inch deep and a mile wide.”  In other words, teachers used to have to cover many skills, but did not have the time to explain any of them very deeply.

Both the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and the Common Core State Standards have been described as being “fewer, higher, and clearer” than our old standards.

Now, Florida teachers will have fewer specific standards to cover in a given year, but they will be expected to cover them more intensely so students will have a deeper understanding of the critical material.

Q: Does the FCAT measure Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and Common Core State Standards?

The FCAT (now called FCAT 2.0) has been changed to measure how our students have progressed on the newer standards – the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

In 2015, Florida will use different tests to measure how our students have progressed on the Common Core State Standards.

Florida is part of a consortium of states called the Partnership for Assessments of Readiness in College and Careers (PARCC).  This consortium of states is   developing common tests to measure the common set of standards.

These PARCC tests will replace the FCAT in reading and math in 2015.

Q: How do the drops in their student’s test scores affect teacher performance evaluation?

Beginning in 2013-2014, fifty percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based upon data.  This measurement will be based upon a complete look at the “progress” of all the students the teacher taught over a 3-year period of time.

For teachers who teach in FCAT tested subjects and grades, the state and your school district will be able to compare gains from the old and the new FCAT.  In other words, teachers will still be able to get credit for making progress with a student even if the student’s overall achievement scores dropped during the transition to the old and the new FCAT 2.0.

The same progress measures will be able to be calculated when Florida transitions from FCAT 2.0 to PARCC assessments in 2015.

Q: What professional development is available to teachers so they are successful in teaching Next Generation Sunshine State Standards?   

Research based subject area workshop trainings provided by the department and local school districts

Q: What resources are going to be available to teachers in failing schools?

Title I dollars and School Improvement Grant funding may be used by local school districts to support teacher professional development

Q: What resources are going to be available to teachers as they transition to teaching Common Core State Standards

GE Foundation has provided $18 million to Student Achievement Partners an organization that will provide free professional development and resources to states to transition to the Common Core State Standards.

For more information please visit DOE’s special website just for teachers.

ALGEBRA 1 END OF COURSE ASSESSMENT Q & A

Which students participated in the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment in the 2011-12 school year?

All middle and high school students enrolled in and completing the following courses were required to take the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment:

Algebra 1 – 1200310

Algebra 1 Honors – 1200320

Algebra 1B – 1200380

Pre-AICE Mathematics 1 – 1209810

IB Middle Years Program – Algebra 1 Honors – 1200390

Students who retook the test

How are scores being reported for the 2012 Algebra 1 EOC Assessment?

The Algebra 1 EOC Assessment is being reported using scale scores and Achievement Levels. The new score scale and Achievement Levels (see below) for the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment were approved by the State Board of Education on December 19, 2011.  Scores for the winter 2011-12 Algebra 1 EOC Assessment administration were the first scores reported on the new scale.  Level 3 indicates satisfactory performance.  If a student is required to pass an EOC assessment to earn course credit, the passing score is the minimum scale score in Achievement Level 3. Level 4 or higher indicates the student is high achieving and has the potential to meet college-readiness standards by the time the student graduates from high school.

Algebra 1 EOC Assessment Scale Scores (325 to 475)

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Passing Level 4 Level 5
325-374 375-398 399-424 425-436 437-475

 

What are the passing score requirements for the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment?

Students who entered grade 9 in the 2011-12 school year and have not previously earned a high school Algebra 1 credit must earn a passing score on the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment. The passing score for the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment is the minimum scale score in Achievement Level 3; therefore, students must earn a score of 399 or higher to pass the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment. This scale score was identified through a standard-setting process in fall 2011, which established the scale-score ranges for all of the Achievement Levels.

What happens if a student fails an EOC assessment when passing is a graduation requirement?

Students who are 9th graders this year must pass the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment in order to receive credit for Algebra 1; this credit is required for graduation.  A 9th grader who does not pass the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment should receive remediation in Algebra 1 to help them master the standards before retaking the assessment.  There are several different options for students who need remediation in Algebra 1.

If the student passed the Algebra 1 course but did not pass the EOC assessment, then the student may go on to the next higher mathematics course and also take a credit recovery course that provides remediation in Algebra 1. This credit recovery course is not based on seat time, so the student would only stay in the course as long as necessary to master the standards.

If the student did not pass the Algebra 1 course, the student could retake it.  This could occur over the summer or in the first semester of the next school year. Alternatively, a district could provide intense instruction over the summer to help the student master the Algebra 1 standards.

In addition, students can access Algebra 1 practice lessons in the FCAT Explorer and through the Florida Virtual School.

In 2012-13, students will have three opportunities to take/retake the Algebra 1 EOC     Assessment, with each district selecting administration weeks within this schedule:

July 23 – August 10, 2012

November 28 – December 19, 2012

April 29 – 17, 2013

Please contact your local school district to find out when the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment will be administered.

Which students are required to have the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment results calculated as 30 percent of their final course grade?

Students who entered grade 9 in the 2010-11 school year and were enrolled in Algebra 1 or an equivalent course must have the Algebra 1 EOC Assessment score calculated as 30 percent of their final grade in the course.  Districts received a conversion table that may be used to convert the new scale scores into T scores, which are the scores that were reported in spring 2011.  The T scores should then be factored into the student’s course grade in the same manner as in spring 2011.

*T Score—the score that students receive the first year that an EOC assessment is administered. T scores are reported using a normreferenced score scale, known as a Tscore scale.

May a student who is subject to the 30 percent course grade weighting requirement retake an EOC assessment to improve his or her course grade?

Yes; however, this option is only available in certain school districts for students who are eligible to do so under the grade forgiveness policies of their district.  For additional information about grade forgiveness policies, please contact your local school district.

May a student, who is required to pass an EOC assessment for course credit and has already earned a passing score retake the assessment to improve his or her score?

No.

Are EOC assessments computer-based or paper-based?

The EOC assessments are computer-based. Exceptions are made for students with disabilities who need to take EOC assessments on paper because the available computer-based accommodations are not appropriate. The paper-based accommodation must be listed on the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.

Is there any evidence to indicate whether students perform better or worse when testing on a computer?

Prior to moving to computer-based testing, the Department studied whether there is a difference in performance between assessments taken on the computer and on paper.  The Department’s findings are provided in What do we know about choosing to take a high-stakes test on a computer?.

Students are required to participate in a practice test prior to testing in order to become familiar with the online testing tools.

For more information about End of Course Assessment Click Here

 

School Grades Q and A

Q. Why do we grade schools?

Florida grades its schools to show how well students in each school are learning what they need to know to be successful.  Assigning a letter grade (A-F) is a way to report a school’s effectiveness in a manner everyone can understand.  Used along with rewards for improving schools and support for schools that need to improve, grading schools encourages them to make student achievement their primary focus.  Grading schools has a track record of success in Florida; our students have shown continuing achievement gains since the first year of school grading in 1999.

Additional information on school grades for all of Florida’s schools and districts is available at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org.

Q. Isn’t it unfair to label a school as failing?

No. An “F” is a way to identify schools that need additional assistance, support, and direction in order for students at these schools to have the same opportunities for growth and success that exist for students in other schools.  If we do not identify schools that are most in need of assistance and support, we would be failing the students attending those schools and the communities where those schools are located.

Q. How do we grade schools?

We grade schools using a point system based on student achievement and progress.   All schools are graded using state assessments that measure

  • student performance in reading, math, science, and writing;
  • student learning gains in reading and math; and
  • reading and math learning gains for the lowest performing students.

Middle school grades also include participation and performance on high-school level end-of-course (EOC) assessments.

High school grades include measures based on overall and at-risk student graduation rates, participation in and performance on advanced coursework, and college readiness in reading and math.

For more information on the separate components of school grades, see the links to the School Grade Guide Sheet and the School Grades Technical Assistance Paper at the bottom of the Web page at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org.

Q. Won’t including students that are very far behind or students with disabilities or English language learners unfairly penalize a school?

Improving the progress of the lowest performing students has been a part of school grades for the past decade.  Students with disabilities and English language learners often have additional needs for assistance in order to have the opportunity to learn and achieve, which is why it is especially important to include these students in the school grading formula.  Beginning in 2011-12, the school grading formula will give extra weight (“extra credit”) for low-performing students who make greater-than-expected gains.

Q. When did we start grading schools?

The A-F school grading system began in 1999.

Q. How many A and B schools have there been?

The number and percentage of A and B schools have varied over the years.  For most of the past decade, more than 70 percent of elementary and middle schools were graded A or B.  For more information, see the “Press Packet” link at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org.

Q. How many D and F schools have there been?

The number and percentage of D and F schools have varied since school grading began.  For most years during the past decade, less than 10 percent of elementary and middle schools were graded D or F.  For more information, see the “Press Packet” link at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org

Q. What support does the state give to D and F schools?

Schools that are graded D or F are classified as Focus and Priority schools in the state’s Differentiated Accountability system.  These schools are targeted for additional assistance and support through the Regional Support System including professional development, supplemental academic services, reading coaches, and other support.  There are more details about the Regional Support System at http://flbsi.org/DA/regional.htm.  For more information on assistance, support, and direction for low-performing schools, contacts the Bureau of School Improvement at http://flbsi.org/contactus/index.htm.

Q. What rewards does the state give to A schools or schools that improve their school grade?

The Florida School Recognition Program provides public recognition and financial awards to schools that have sustained high student performance or schools that demonstrate substantial improvement in student performance.  Schools qualify for the award if they

  • receive a grade of “A”;
  • improve at least one letter grade; or
  •  improve more than one letter grade and sustain the improvement the following school year; or
  • are designated as Alternative Schools and receive a school improvement rating of “Improving” or improve at least one level.

For 2011, each recognized school received $70 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student.

Q. Why do we no longer use Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)?

Florida no longer calculates and reports AYP outcomes, a federal measure of accountability, for schools because the state received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to base all school improvement requirements solely on school grade performance.  In the past, AYP performance as well as school grade performance was used to determine school improvement measures.  This resulted in conflicting and confusing information about school performance.  Going forward, Florida will be able to use school grades as the sole basis for identifying Florida’s lowest performing schools – those schools most in need of support and assistance.   AYP reporting will no longer be needed in classifying schools for school improvement purposes.

 Q. How can I help my school if it earns a grade of D or an F?

Parents can help schools by becoming involved in their children’s education, keeping communications open with their children’s teacher(s), and participating in parent-teacher meetings and organizations.  Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Equip your child with necessary school supplies.
  • Provide a home environment that encourages learning.
  • Encourage positive school feelings.
  • Meet with your child’s teacher.
  • Communicate regularly with your child’s teacher(s) by phone/letters.
  • Talk with your child about school activities every day.
  • Encourage your child’s efforts and be available for questions.
  • Insist that all homework assignments be completed.
  • Provide a quiet, well-lighted place to study.
  • Support the school in developing self-discipline in your child.
  • Encourage your child to read at home and monitor TV viewing.
  • Read with and let your child see you read.
  • Get a library card for your child.
  • Provide tutorial assistance for your child if needed.
  • Stay aware of what your child is learning.
  • Sign and return all papers to school.
  • Visit your child’s classroom.
  • Volunteer in a needed area at school.
  • Volunteer to assist on field trips.
  • Send materials or supply items to assist in classroom activities.
  • Attend at least three PTA/PTSO meetings a year
  • Become involved in planning school activities and fund raisers
  • Attend all parent-teacher conferences

Q. Why did my child’s school grade go down?

 A school grade can decrease for a number of reasons but in general, the grade may go down if the school had a smaller percentage of students scoring at satisfactory levels on assessments or if a smaller proportion of the school’s students made expected learning gains.  In terms of the calculation, changes in the school’s points total from the prior year to the current year can affect the assigned grade.  Schools earn school grades points based on the percentage of students who score at certain levels on assessments and for the proportion of students who make expected learning gains. Here are some examples of changes in school performance resulting in a lower grade:

  • The school’s earned points total for all school grading measures declined from the previous year.  A decline in points earned for one or more of the school grade measures can result in a lower point total for the school.
  • The school may have earned enough points for an A but did not test at least 95 percent of eligible students, a requirement for earning an A.

Detailed information on points totals for each school’s grade is provided in the downloadable Excel files titled “All Districts: Non-High Schools” and “All Districts: High Schools” at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/.   The interactive report at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/default.asp allows users to review total school grade points for multiple years.

Q. How can my school get a better grade?

Schools can improve their school grade by focusing efforts on improving student achievement in areas of greatest need, which can be identified by looking at the school grade measures where the school earned the fewest points. Districts and schools can use the District Improvement and Assistance Plan and the School Improvement Plan to establish strategies and action steps to address those areas. There is a range of plans and support to help schools improve. Check with your school and district leadership and ask them about their plans.

Q. Why are we changing how schools are graded now? Wasn’t it working fine?

Florida’s school grading system has periodically changed over the years to include more students in the school grading system, to expand components measured for school grades, and to increase expectations for achievement by Florida’s students, teachers, and schools.  While Florida’s students have shown increases in achievement during the period in which school grades have been in effect, there is still much room for improvement. And improvement will be needed if Florida’s workforce is to meet the challenges for attracting businesses and growing the state’s economy to provide the best outlook for all Floridians.

Recently, Florida has transitioned to higher academic standards and new assessments, which are now used in measuring school performance for school grades.  In addition, Florida is now fully including all students in the school grade performance measures for reading, math, writing, and science – including students with disabilities and English language learners with at least one year of instruction in the U.S.  As a result of this change, the U.S. Department of Education will allow Florida to discontinue use of the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) measure to determine school improvement requirements, so that the school grade will be the sole measure of a school’s progress.  This change benefits Florida’s students, schools, teachers, and communities by simplifying requirements for school improvement and eliminating confusion about school performance.

Each time that Florida’s school grading system has changed to increase expectations, Florida’s schools have responded over time to raise student achievement, which is the primary goal of the school grading system.  Increasing student academic achievement is the primary goal of the school grading system because reaching this goal means maximizing opportunities for Florida’s students to succeed on multiple levels: in education, in work and in life.

Q. What if my child attends a school that has received an F grade?

Your child may be eligible for an Opportunity Scholarship if he/she attended a school that received an F during the 2011-12 school year or is assigned to that school for the upcoming 2012-13 school year.  Your school district will notify you within 15 days of your choices for other schools in your district.  If other schools are at capacity, there may not be an option to transfer.  Please call your school district office with any questions you may have or visit  http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/to learn more.

 

Q.  What if my child attended a school that received a D three years in a row?

Your child may be eligible for an Opportunity Scholarship if he/she attended a school that received its third consecutive D during the 2011-12 school year or is assigned to that school for the upcoming 2012-13 school year.  Your school district will notify you within 15 days of your choices for other schools in your district.  If other schools are at capacity, there may not be an option to transfer.  Please call your school district office with any questions you may have.

Q.  Did including the special populations of English Language Learners (ELL) and Students with Disabilities (SWD) impact my child’s school grade?

Test scores for all full-year-enrolled students have an impact on school grades. Test scores for ELLs and SWDs have been included in learning gains in school grades since 2005.  Beginning in 2011-12, scores for these students were also included in the current-year performance measures for math, reading, science, and writing.  For information on the performance of students in these subgroups, you may want to check the AYP performance of subgroups using the School Accountability Reports site at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/default.asp.  Additional information on subgroup performance will be available in a report on Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) for 2012 that will be posted at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org.  The performance of subgroups is also included in the School Public Accountability Reports at http://doeweb-prd.doe.state.fl.us/eds/nclbspar/index.cfm.  These reports will be updated for 2012 this summer.

 Q:  Why does the department release high school grades in the fall instead of the summer?

Performance components other than state assessments are included in Florida high school grades (listed below). The department does not receive these data until the fall of each year. Once the data are collected, reviewed, and grades are calculated, the department makes the information available to the public.

Graduation rates (four-year federal rate; modified five-year rate),

Graduation rates for at-risk students,

Participation in accelerated coursework,

Performance in accelerated coursework,

Postsecondary readiness in reading and mathematics, and

Annual growth in performance of each of these components.

 

 

 

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