High school students face changes in FCAT this year

Because of changes to the FCAT, there are going to be some differences in how high school students take the test this year.

While high school students still take the reading Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test on paper, the math test has changed. Sophomores and those upperclassmen who haven't passed the test now will have to take the FCAT online.

And these changes are just the beginning of an overhaul of the FCAT system for high school students. Ninth-graders will begin taking state end-of-course exams — starting this May with algebra — in lieu of the FCAT.

Because of the changes, Treasure Coast high school educators have spent the school year trying to ensure their students are ready to take the FCAT in April and algebra end of course exam in May.

Benchmark testing — tests given every few weeks to see how students are learning material — is now done on computers throughout Treasure Coast high schools to prepare students for mandatory online testing on the math FCAT and all FCAT math retakes.

"We are working hard to make sure students are familiar with online testing," said Teresa D'Albora, executive director for Instructional Services for Martin County Schools.

Other FCAT preparation in high schools also is a little different because of the changes. Schools such as Jensen Beach High School in Martin County are having practice sessions in the computer labs.

"This is something they haven't had to do in the past. That's something out of their comfort zone," Jensen Beach Principal Ginger Featherstone said about the online testing.

Educators say most students might actually fare better taking the test online than having to use pencil and paper.

"This generation has grown up with computers. They're getting extremely proficient in that nature," Fort Pierce Central High School Principal Todd Smith said.

As the state transitions to online testing, the first-ever send-of-course exams also will be done solely on computer.

Ninth-graders take the algebra end-of-course exam this year online. The state also is field testing biology and geometry end-of-course exams at some high schools.

To prepare students for the algebra exam, Treasure Coast schools such as Sebastian River High School in Indian River County use pacing guides throughout the school year.

Pacing guides help make sure students are learning content that will be on the test, said SRHS Principal Daniel Gilbertson.

"The pacing guides lead them to the end of course exam," Gilbertson said.

FCAT SCHEDULE

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for students grades three through 10 begins April 11.

The following is a list of FCAT and end of course exam dates for students:

FCAT reading and math for grades three through 10: April 11-22

FCAT science, grades 5, 8 and 11: April 11-22

Algebra end of course exam for ninth-graders: May 9-27

Geometry, biology end of course exam field tests at some select high schools throughout the state: May 2-June 3

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