With the passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2001, all states were required to administer standardized tests annually to ensure students learn essential material. In Florida, the tests are called the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Requiring students to pass certain FCAT tests to graduate is an effort to be sure students are prepared when they leave high school.
Mastery of Basic Skills
Passing the FCAT indicates that students have learned the basic skills in high school. In the writing FCAT, administered at the end of tenth grade, students write essays that are graded in four areas: focus, organization, supporting details and conventions such as punctuation, capitalization, spelling and sentence structure. Recent updates have added an FCAT 2.0 test in reading and end-of-course tests in algebra I, geometry and biology 1 for students who entered ninth grade beginning with the 2010–11 school year.
Preparation for Future
FCAT tests are designed to ensure that students are prepared for the future -- whether that includes college or immediate entry into the workforce. At age 18, students don't know what their future will hold. Having basic knowledge and skills in reading, writing, math and science will enable them to change their job focus if they choose and will give them a strong foundation to build upon for the rest of their lives.
Standardized tests provide a more objective way to assess all students than teacher-prepared and -graded tests can. For the FCAT, a group of unbiased educators came together to outline what information was essential for all students to know. With all students receiving the same test, it's possible to assess students objectively, evaluate how well each is learning and ensure that every Florida student leaves high school with a basic foundation of knowledge.
Increased Achievement Levels
A decade ago, Florida schools ranked near the bottom of state education systems. Recent rankings now put Florida near the top. According to Gerard Robinson, Florida's Education Commissioner, Florida's remarkable rise to the top is the result of educators coming together to develop state standards, resulting in the FCAT. Assessing student achievement each year through the FCATs caused educators to change some of their teaching methods, focus on specific material and ensure that students were learning it. Opponents call this "teaching to the test," but that's not always a bad thing if it means students are learning the material.
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