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Florida's FCAT being replaced

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. Teachers, Parents and Students can get their first look at the new Florida Standards Assessments Test, the new test replacing the FCATs next year.   The Florida Department of Education has put some sample questions online at www.fsassessments.org   Some of the questions are pretty basic, like asking a third grade student to round 78 to the nearest 10.    Others are more little technology driven like asking the third grader to draw a rectangle with 24-square-unit area on a computerized graph.   Andrea Brown, a mother of three, says that type of question may be tough for a third grader.   When they started a child graphing a third grader I dont know. That seems a little complicated, Brown said.   We had Lydia Benjamin, an incoming 7th grader, took a look at a few of the 7th grade math problems and she didnt seem to have trouble with them.    It was pretty easy, she said.   Her uncle, Don Berry, says it doesnt surprise him since his niece has always done well at school.   The only concern that I have is making sure theyre prepped for it, he said. Then throw to the wolves at this point.   Escambia County Superintendent Malcom Thomas says compared to the FCAT, the Florida Standards Assessments math portion has different formatting for some of the questions.  And while the FCAT had a separate writing exam, the new test will combine the writing with language arts.  He also said the exam will be administered entirely by computer.   What people will notice right away is the level of rigor, he said, whats expected and what need to know to solve English or math Questions.   Thomas says its hard to know what to expect from students.  He says lawmakers havent even determined what a passing score is.   "There are so many unknowns about the test, Thomas said. So Im going to give teachers permission this year, lets make learning fun; lets step back a moment; lets stop worrying about the dang test.  Lets just go teach the standards, let the chips fall where they may." Okaloosa Countys Assistant Superintendent, Marcus Chambers, in a written statement, had this to say about the Florida Standards Assessments: The new Florida Standards Assessment, FSA, is right in line with what we expected. The test measures the standards, which are more rigorous and will give teachers a better indication of where students are. Ultimately, the new test will better detail student strengths and allow us to hone in on student weaknesses. Our teachers worked diligently all year long on professional development which highlighted the shifts that the new assessment requires. The computer-based test has new item types, such as a Two-Part Hot Text which requires students to click on their answer from within the text given. For example, a student might have to identify the meaning of a word and then select words or phrases from the text that provide clues to the words meaning. Clearly the new assessment is more rigorous; however, it is what we in Okaloosa County have been preparing for over the last 19 months.