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FCAT changes and elimination of retakes aimed at cutting costs

By Staff | Apr 3, 2009

The Department of Education cut parts of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test this week.
Last April the FLDOE eliminated the multiple choice section from the FCAT writing exam only months after it was added, and in November it shut down the FCAT Parent Network — an online system allowing parents to view their children’s scores.
Commissioner of Education Eric Smith said Tuesday in a memorandum to district superintendents that the department will cut all FCAT retakes during the summer, remove parts of the FCAT science exam and stop printing certain test materials or printed score reports.
Officials expect the changes to save the department approximately $10 million overall.
Dr. Richard Itzen, director of Accountability, Research and Continuous Improvement at the Lee County School District, said eliminating summer retakes will reduce the chances students have to pass the FCAT.
“Anyone who is currently in 10th or 11th grade will have one less chance to take it before graduation rolls around,” he said.
Itzen explained that sample materials will continue to be distributed to students for test preparation, but certain materials designed for educators will be discontinued. Instead, they will be offered online for teachers across the state.
He added that FCAT tests are transitioning to multiple choice. Next year all of the science exam will be multiple choice, and the following year both reading and math will be multiple choice.
“You do have the test transitioning to multiple choice as opposed to tests you have now that have short or long responses,” said Itzen.
Ending all summer retakes will save about $1.3 million, according to FLDOE officials. Editing of the science exam is worth $2.4 million.
The memorandum also stated that the department can no longer afford to have the writing, mathematics or reading tests hand-scored by two staff members. From now on, only the 10th-grade writing exam will continue to be scored by two.
Smith said eliminating the hand score requirement will save $2.9 million.
FCAT support materials — Keys to FCAT, Lessons Learned, Understanding FCAT Reports and Florida Reads! Writes! Solves! and Inquires! — are discontinued starting this year, resulting in a reported $1.4 million savings.
Axing printed score reports will eliminate $500,000 in printing costs for the department.
Officials explained that last year’s closing of the FCAT Parent Network conserved $1.3 million.
Smith assured district superintendents that the quality of the system will be ensured, regardless of any changes to the test.
“Even though we have made adjustments to the testing program and may need to make future adjustments, you can be assured that the quality of the assessment system will not be compromised,” Smith wrote.
Over the next five years, the FLDOE is trying to transition to using more end-of-course exams by developing algebra I by 2010, biology by 2011 and American history by 2012.