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Proposed bill would add social studies to areas FCAT covers

By Staff | Jan 28, 2009

Since 1995 the FCAT has tested students in mathematics, writing, reading and science, but a bill proposed to the Florida Legislature may add social studies to the list of tested areas.
Florida House Bill 13 adds social studies to the FCAT lineup. The test would encompass geography, U.S. and world history, economics, government and humanities, all with a particular emphasis on civic education.
The bill states that the first social studies assessments will be given in 2014. At minimum it will be administered at least once in the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Education officials from the state will simultaneously create Sunshine State Standards to coincide with the new test. Standards will be broken down by grade level for students in kindergarten to eighth grade, while it will be organized in clusters for high school students.
Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, sponsored the bill that would require the additional FCAT test.
It is unclear at this time whether the state’s economic climate could throw roadblocks in the implementation of HB 13. The Legislature made approximately $500 million worth of cuts to education to counter a $2.5 billion shortfall. Next year’s shortages are expected to exceed that amount by an additional $2 billion.
According to statewide reports, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed nearly one-fourth of the total cuts during the special session.
Dr. Constance Jones, chief academic officer for the Lee County School District, said if the bill passes, standards and curriculum would be developed. Later, a field test would be held and an FCAT developed.
While students in Lee County have always taken social studies classes, the introduction of an additional FCAT test on the subject could be daunting. The FCAT science exam was first introduced three years ago, and only 40 percent of students in the district passed it.
“In the beginning, as you learn a new form or type of testing, it usually takes a little while to understand what they are looking for and assessing,” said Jones. “We would absolutely have our students prepared.”
On the other hand, she said there may be a shift from general exams such as the FCAT to end-of-course exams. Another bill in the Legislature, HB 543, would discontinue the FCAT science test at the end of this school year and replace it with end-of-course examinations.
“It may be we are looking at end-of-course exams rather than the general FCAT assessment,” said Jones. “It would be far meaningful to have high quality end-of-course exams, there is a growing interest in our state to move in that direction for high school.”