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As FCAT Ends, What's Next For Florida Classrooms?

Greg Daly

This week marks the last time state students will take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, known as the FCAT.The test is being phased out next year in favor of a new assessment aligned with statewide Common Core standards. Those are the new education standards that have sparked some controversy. So what’s next in the classroom?

Deborah Gianoulis, CEO of the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership, Colleen Wood of Save Duval Schools, and StateImpact Florida reporter Sammy Mack joined Melissa Ross for more on the end of FCAT and what comes next for testing in the Sunshine State.

"I think in Florida we're at a crossroads," said Colleen Wood. "This really is a time for the citizens of Florida to say whether we're going to do business as usual and just kind of accept what is told to us... or we're going to say, 'What is best for children is to implement this correctly, fairly, (and) accurately over time.'"

Wood referred to the timeline for implementing the new test, which is being field tested now in Utah, months before it is set to be given to teachers and students.

Schultz Center CEO Deborah Gianoulis said that while a majority of teachers agree there should be nationally recognized testing standards, there is a component to the implementation of the new test that is missing.

"I think what we need to talk about is how we prepare our teachers for these new standards," she said.

"We have got to have some professional development, we've got to be able to meet with teachers across districts, we have to be able to understand how we're going to integrate the learning for our students, because that's really what Common Core is about."

Sammy Mack said one of the main points of contention when it comes to the FCAT's replacement is how results could affect local education funding and teacher scores, especially given the short timeline during which teachers will be asked to formulate lesson plans based on the new test.

"They're really not looking forward to not even knowing what's happening next year until they see it," she said of teachers she has interviewed about the changes.

One potential answer to those concerns is a three year moratorium on using the test results as a factor in local education funding, a proposal espoused by Wood.

"We're setting people up for failure when we don't have the standards written, we don't have the end of course exams written for next year, that teachers are going to have to be implementing," she said. "Our districts are in trouble and they need the communities to help."

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax and Patrick Donges at @patrickhdonges.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.
Patrick Donges served as WJCT's Digital Content Editor from August 2013 - August 2014.