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'Training Tests' Give Sneak Peek at New Statewide Assessment

July 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

Move over, FCAT -- theres a new test in town.

Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Education debuted the states new education standards, which were more closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards. As a result of the new education standards, the department selected the American Institutes for Research to develop a new assessment test, and the Florida Standards Assessment was born.

The Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) will be hitting schools in the Sunshine State for the 2014-2015 academic year, replacing the FCAT which has dominated Floridas student testing for the last 15 years.

Recently, the FSAs website has unveiled training tests, which give students an idea of what to expect on the new assessment. The Florida Department of Education says debuting the test now will give students and parents ample time to familiarize themselves with the new assessment.

Sunshine State News took a closer look at the entirely computer-based training tests, which contain a variety of questions from inference-based reasoning to rearranging mathematical sequences.

Other questions ask test takers to write in the main idea of reading passages. Depending on the grade level selected, those taking the test can even write entire essays on select passages in the training tests.

The types of questions asked by the FSA will, the Florida Department of Education says, give students the opportunity to aim higher and do more with the material theyve learned in the classroom.

The new standards encourage critical thinking and analysis, said DOE Communications Director Joe Follick. As a result, rather than merely coloring in a bubble on a test, the FSA will measure deeper thinking and problem-solving that are critical skills for our students to succeed.

Although the test is computer-based, not all grade levels will be taking the FSA on computers.

According to the transition plan, third- and fourth-graders will still take paper-based tests for the 2014-2015 school year, but most grades will opt into computer-based testing for the FSA.

With the exception of fifth- and eighth-grade science, all testing will be completed electronically by the 2017-2018 academic year.

Although opponents to the Common Core State Standards havent weighed in on the FSA, theyve already been critical of AIR and expressed concerns over the possibility of data mining and the promotion of LGBT issues.

We know that our children's tests will likely include these types of issues and that the test and other data will go to the state, the federal government, and to corporations," said Florida Stop Common Core Coalition founder Dr. Karen Effrem.

The department does, however, seem to be open to any suggestions on the test, which still remains unfinished. It will allow those with questions, comments or concerns to make their voices heard until 5 p.m. on Sept. 5.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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