New standardized test needed as FCAT ends

17-year education benchmark will end after this school year

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Students in Florida have started taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, for the final time, but what will replace it is uncertain. The ongoing process of picking another test has led to lawmakers and teachers asking for a reprieve from the A through F school grading system.

As Florida students started taking their FCAT this week, the 17-year education benchmark will end after this school year.

There is no test to replace it yet, and the Department of Education just approved more changes to Common Core standards last week.

"Every single year, they're doing some type of change. We have no consistency, so people never know what to expect," said Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall.

The state's biggest teacher's union is criticizing the decision to tweak standards before fixing school evaluation criteria. The outgoing FCAT was heavily tied to the school A through F grading system which can determine funding and teacher pay.

"Whether we like it or not, kids are labeled A through F," said McCall.

Florida Democratic House Leader Perry Thurston has called for scrapping the A through F system entirely.

"Instead of pushing so much on the school system, we should gradually do that," said Thurston. "Maybe take three years to come up with some type of proposal that works."

Superintendents from around the state have also asked Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to slow down the transition to new standards and testing.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons was one of the vocal school leaders imploring the governor to pump the brakes and fix the A through F evaluations, while schools absorb all the changes.

"Until we have the test established, until we have the opportunity to do professional development with teachers, why not slow everything down. Let's get all that into place before we move ahead and create something we're not going to be able to sustain," said Pons.

Stewart is proposing a plan to fix the system. She said her goal is to simplify grading and restore credibility. Stewart said she believes the state is still on track to find a new standardized test by March.

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