Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)

The FCAT is an annual test given to students in grades 3-11 that measures their skills in the areas of reading, math, science and writing according to Florida’s Sunshine State Standards. All public school students are required to take the FCAT. The FCAT is given to students each year in February (writing) and in March (reading, math, and science). The areas of reading and math are tested each year in grades 3 through 10. The area of writing, in addition to reading and math, is tested in grades 4, 8, 10. The area of science is tested in grade 5, 8, 11. In grade 5 and 8, science is tested in addition to reading and math. In grade 11, only science is tested.

Students with disabilities can take the FCAT and can be provided accommodations while taking the FCAT.

Sunshine State Standards

These are Florida’s standards for determining what a child should know and be able to do at each grade level. The areas of social studies, science, language arts, health/physical education, the arts, foreign language, and math are the seven academic areas under the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). These standards are then divided into benchmarks. The benchmarks outline the specific content, knowledge, and skills that students are expected to learn in school. Each student’s performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in the areas of reading, math, writing, and science indicates his or her progress in reaching these benchmarks.

Accommodations

Similar to having accommodations for the classroom, students with disabilities may be provided with accommodations for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Just like the student’s accommodations for the classroom, the accommodations for the FCAT should also be listed on the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The student’s IEP must determine what accommodations the student will need. Accommodations are changes in how the test is given and not in what is tested on the FCAT. The purpose of providing accommodations is to enable the student to demonstrate knowledge and skills without affecting the validity or reliability of the test.  Some accommodations allowed in the classroom are not allowed on the FCAT.

Examples of accommodations not allowed on the FCAT include: use of calculator for basic computation in grades 3 through 6, use of spelling or grammar check on written responses, graphic organizer software to assist in preparing responses, text-to-speech software for the reading portion of the test, having a proctor read aloud items that test reading skills.

To review those accommodations allowed during the FCAT, download Guide to FCAT and FCAT 2.0 Accommodations for Students with Disabilities.

Students requiring unique accommodations not found on the publication must be approved by the Commissioner of Education.

3rd grade FCAT

In order for students in grade 3 to be promoted to grade 4, they must score at least a level 2 in reading on the 3rd grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).  If a student does not receive a level 2 or higher in the 3rd grade reading portion of the FCAT, the student will be retained in the 3rd grade. There are, however, good cause exemptions that may allow a student in these circumstances to still be promoted on to the 4th grade.  Students who meet one of the following criteria may be considered for a good cause exemption: 

  • English Language Learners (ELLs) with less than two years in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program,
  • students with disabilities whose individual educational plan (IEP) indicates that participation in the FCAT is not appropriate,
  • demonstration of an acceptable level of performance on an alternative standardized reading assessment approved by the State Board of Education,
  • demonstration of proficiency in accordance with the Sunshine State Standard Benchmarks of Language Arts through a student portfolio,
  • students with disabilities who participate in the FCAT, but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after more than two years of intensive remediation, and were previously retained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade, or,
  • students who still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after two or more years of intensive remediation and who were previously retained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade for a total of two years.

Mid-year promotion is available to a retained 3rd grader who, during the first semester of the school year, demonstrates mastery of the 3rd grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks and beginning mastery of the 4th grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks (mastery should be consistent with the month of promotion to 4th grade).  One way the student may show this is by completing a portfolio that demonstrates mastery of the appropriate benchmarks. 

FCAT Waiver

Students with disabilities who are working toward a standard high school diploma are expected to participate in the FCAT 2.0 and Florida EOC Assessments. Legislation provides for a waiver of the FCAT 2.0 or Algebra 1 EOC Assessment as a requirement for graduating with a standard high school diploma for students with disabilities whose abilities cannot be accurately measured by the statewide assessments. Pursuant to s. 1008.22(3)(c)2., F.S., “A student with a disability, as defined in s. 1007.02(2), for whom the individual education plan (IEP) team determines that the statewide, standardized assessments under this section cannot accurately measure the student’s abilities, taking into consideration all allowable accommodations, shall have assessment results waived for the purpose of receiving a course grade and a standard high school diploma. Such waiver shall be designated on the student’s transcript.”

FCAT 2.0

For approximately the past year, Florida has been transitioning from the FCAT to the FCAT 2.0 and End-Of-Course (EOC) Assessments. The transition from the FCAT to the FCAT 2.0 began last year in 2011 with the administration of the FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics. FCAT 2.0 Science will be administered to students for the first time in the spring of 2012, and the writing assessment will continue to be administered through 2014. The FCAT 2.0 measures students’ mastery of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS), which are meant to replace the previous Sunshine State Standards assessed by the FCAT, and which are held to be more rigorous. The Florida EOC Assessments are tests also designed to assess students’ mastery of the NGSSS for specific courses. The first EOC assessment was the 2011 Algebra 1 EOC Assessment. In May 2012, students will take the Biology 1 and Geometry EOC Assessments. There are plans to implement additional EOC assessments in U.S. History and Civics.

The purpose and design of the statewide assessment program is articulated in Section 1008.22, Florida Statutes.

According to the Florida Department of Education’s FAQs, the major differences between the FCAT and the FCAT 2.0 are:

  • Some test items in Session 2 of the Grades 3 and 4 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessments require the use of the provided ruler to answer questions. These test items may include measurements in either metric or customary units.
  • The Grade 4 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessment includes not only multiple-choice test items, but also gridded-response test items.
  • The gridded-response test items in FCAT 2.0 Mathematics for grades 5 through 8 have different grids than those on the FCAT. Additionally, the option for negative answers for gridded-response items is now included for grades 7 and 8.
  • For the Grade 5 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessment, students are provided a reference sheet that contains information and formulas they may need to complete some test items.
  • The FCAT 2.0 Reading assessments in grades 3 through 10 include a greater number of reading passages from the public domain, such as historical documents and works by classical authors.
  • The FCAT 2.0 Reading assessments in grades 3 through 10 include a greater number of test items that require reasonable inferences and reasonable prior knowledge.
  • Reference sheets are not provided for the Grades 5 and 8 FCAT 2.0 Science assessments, but grade 8 students will receive a Periodic Table of the Elements.
  • FCAT Mathematics was administered at grades 9 and 10, but there are no FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessments for grades 9 and 10. The Algebra 1 and Geometry End-of-Course (EOC) Assessments have replaced these tests as the high-school-level mathematics assessments.
  • FCAT Science was administered at grade 11, but there is no Grade 11 FCAT 2.0 Science assessment. The Biology 1 EOC Assessment has replaced the grade 11 test as the high-school-level science assessment.
  • FCAT 2.0 tests do not have any performance task items.

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Strategies

  • Discuss with the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team the ways the school can teach the student to learn the skills needed for all content areas tested on the FCAT.
  • Remember that students with disabilities may also take the FCAT and earn a standard diploma unless the IEP team, on which the parent is a required member, determines that the student should be exempted from the taking the FCAT.  An IEP team should not automatically determine that a student should be exempted from taking the FCAT just because the student is one with disabilities or because the student’s disability is “severe”. 
  • Discuss with the IEP team what accommodations the student will need for the classroom and for the FCAT.  Remember that not all accommodations for the classroom are allowed during the FCAT.
  • If the student has not passed the grade 10 FCAT after taking it at least twice, ask the IEP team to consider the FCAT waiver and/or special exemption. 
  • If you have any other questions concerning the FCAT, you may contact the Florida Department of Education at 850-245-0513 or visit www.fldoe.org.

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