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Florida will no longer use FCAT starting next school year

The state of Florida will not longer use the FCAT to test students beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.

Most of FCAT will be replaced next year by new exams developed by a social-science research organization, the Florida Department of Education announced today.

The American Institutes for Research, based in Washington, D.C., will create a new series of standardized exams for Florida - language arts and math tests to be taken by nearly 2 million public school students.

The Florida Standards Assessment, or FSA, will be aligned to new common core academic standards. Its tests are meant to be tougher than FCATand to assess students' "higher-order thinking skills," the department said. Florida Department of Education commissioner Pam Stewart announced the change today. She says the the new assessment  was developed with a large amount of public input.

She also says the new assessment emphasizes flexibility for teachers to make their own decisions in classrooms.

In August 2013, Governor Rick Scott convened the state's top education leaders and bipartisan stakeholders to discuss the sustainability and transparency of the state's accountability system in a three-day accountability summit.

Using input from the summit, Governor Scott issued executive order 13-276, which initiated Florida's departure from the National PARCC Consortium as its fiscal agent, to ensure that the state would be able to procure a test specifically designed for Florida's needs without federal intervention.

Governor Scott also set out eight goals for the new assessment to ensure the best outcome for Florida students. Among those eight objectives were an emphasis on prompt reports of results, no significant change in testing time for students, no significant increase in costs of the assessments and an assurance that testing dates be as close as possible to the end of the school year to maximize learning opportunities. This assessment meets those goals.

Governor Scott also requested additional public comments about the standards, which resulted in public hearings around the state and thousands of comments from Floridians. In February 2014, the state board of education approved changes to the standards that reflected the input. The new Florida standards for mathematics and english language arts stress a broader approach for student learning, including an increased emphasis on analytical thinking. With the new and more rigorous standards, a new assessment was needed to measure student progress.

The invitation to negotiate was posted for public review in October 2013 and proposals were received in December. An evaluation team reviewed five proposals and narrowed the choice to three groups. Subsequently, a negotiation team unanimously recommended the not-for-profit American Institutes for Research  to Commissioner Stewart, who announced her selection of air today.