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Five Things You Didn't Know about the FSA

Posted by David Moadel

May 13, 2015 11:27:00 AM

The Sunshine State's public school educators, parents, and students might not have had time to absorb the impact of the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) yet, but they can't avoid the far-reaching ramifications the FSA will undoubtedly have in the near future. 

As Florida's public school system strives to meet the high bar set by the Common Core Standards, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has replaced the FCAT 2.0 with the FSA, a suite of statewide standardized tests engineered by the Florida Institutes for Research, covering the subjects you would expect: Math and English/language arts.

With FSA implementation starting this year, it should come as no surprise that stakeholders in Florida’s public education may have more questions than answers regarding this new high-stakes battery of assessments. Compounding the confusion is the transition to statewide computer-based testing we've witnessed in recent years. To help sort things out and add a smidgen of clarity, here is a short list of things you probably didn't know about the FSA.

1.The FSA's new writing test will use computers to grade essays

Gone will be the FCAT's manual method whereby two humans would hand-score each and every essay. With students taking a writing exam every year under Common Core guidelines, reliance on speedy computer-based scoring will be imperative. A computer-graded future is projected to save the state of Florida  $30.5 million over the next six years, but the actual value of these new grading methods has yet to be seen.

 2. FSA training tests are available on the web.  

While not necessarily intended for classroom instruction, these practice tests can reduce much of the mystery shrouding the FSA. The training tests include sample math and English/language arts items for grades 3 through 11, along with user guides and answer keys.  Unfortunately, accommodations for students with disabilities (such as text-to-speech functionality) are not yet available in the FSA training tests.

3. FSA test items will include more—much more, indeed!—than good ol' multiple-choice.

Test takers should expect to interact more fully with FSA test items; for example, math exam items might expect students to draw graphs. Other exam items might ask test takers to drag and drop item choices into the correct places (it's kind of like the old-fashioned matching items, 21st century style), or they might be subjected to what's known as "movable text response" items.

Check out LearnBop’s brand new Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) to see what the new FSA computer-based item types will look like. Teachers can use these new items right now in the classroom to model mathematical thinking!



4. The new tests were brought to you by a nonprofit organization. 

When Florida lawmakers, including Governor Rick Scott, sought a firm to engineer and roll out a new test to meet the rigor of the Common Core, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) was eventually chosen for this task. Typically known for educational research, the not-for-profit AIR branched out into test creation, with Common Core-aligned tests engineered in Arizona and Utah as well as Florida.  Impressively, AIR has been designing and developing large-scale assessment programs for nearly 70 years.


5. While there were glitches in the 2014-2015 FSA rollout, students were (eventually) able to take the computerized exams. 

AIR has asserted that reported issues were due not to capacity or bandwidth problems, but rather to updated student data not being able to reach testing servers.  Whether AIR can provide Florida a problem-free testing implementation in the coming school year remains to be seen.

As the tide of the standards movement continues, waves of change will unavoidably bring new technology, new methods, and new surprises. Stay tuned for more updates and information on Florida education!


Do your students need help learning math? Schedule a demo now to see how LearnBop can help.


About the Author


David Moadel is in his third decade working in education.  He has taught, mentored, and inspired students from elementary age through adult.  David has earned his master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education, and is currently a certified teacher in Florida.  David enjoys teaching, writing, and utilizing technology tools to communicate with people with diverse viewpoints across the globe.


Topics: Implementing the Common Core, Teaching & Learning, State News

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