Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)
The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) began in 1998 as part of Florida's overall plan to increase student achievement by implementing higher standards. FCAT Reading and Mathematics are given to students in grades 3-10, FCAT Writing is given to students in grades 4, 8 and 10 and FCAT Science is given to students in grades 5, 8 and 11. Students’ performance is measured on selected benchmarks that are defined by the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). This section covers student performance on the Mathematics and Reading FCAT only.
- During the 2010-11 school year, Florida will begin a transition from the FCAT to FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course Assessments (EOC).
- FCAT 2.0 measures student achievement of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. The transition from FCAT to FCAT 2.0 will be phased in, with 2011 FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics being the first assessments to begin this transition. FCAT 2.0 Science will be administered to students for the first time in the spring of 2012.
- The Florida EOC Assessments are part of Florida's Next Generation Strategic Plan for the purpose of increasing student achievement and improving college and career readiness. EOCs will be computer-based, criterion-referenced assessments that measure the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for specific high-school level courses, as outlined in the course description. The first assessment to begin the transition to end-of-course testing in Florida is the Algebra 1 EOC, which will be administered for the first time in May 2011.
FCAT Achievement Levels
FCAT achievement levels are shown in the table below. Levels of achievement range from Level 1 where the student has little success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards to Level 5 where the student answers most of the test questions correctly, including the most challenging questions.
Achievement Level Policy Definitions
|This student has success with the most challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards. A student scoring in Level 5 answers most of the test questions correctly, including the most challenging questions.|
|This student has success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards. A student scoring in Level 4 answers most of the test questions correctly, but may have only some success with questions that reflect the most challenging content.|
|This student has partial success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards, but performance is inconsistent. A student scoring in Level 3 answers many of the test questions correctly but is generally less successful with questions that are the most challenging.|
|This student has limited success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards.|
|This student has little success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards.|
Source: Florida Department of Education
The percentage of Pinellas County students at or above level 3 on the reading FCAT for grades 3, 6 and 9 has steadily improved over the years - a one-time statewide problem in 2006 inflated 2006 scores and, thus, temporarily distorted trends somewhat. However, a comparison of grades 3, 6 and 9 shows a significant decline in the percentage of students achieving level 3 or above as grade level increases. This deterioration occurs throughout the state.
"Reading proficiently by the end of third grade (as measured by NAEP at the beginning of fourth grade) can be a make or break benchmark in a child’s educational development."
"The shortfall in reading proficiency is especially pronounced among low-income children."
Annie E. Casey Foundation, Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters, A Kids Count Special Report, May 2010.
- In 2010, 74% of 3rd grade students achieved level 3 or above compared to 66% of 6th graders and 51% of 9thgrade students.
- The gap between grade 9 and grades 3 and 6 has narrowed in recent years. In 2010, grade 9 exceeded 50% for the first time.
Reading FCAT by Race/Ethnicity
The percentage of students achieving level 3 or above on the reading FCAT differs substantially between racial and ethnic groups. Although the performance of all groups has improved over the years, all groups have experienced a significant deterioration in performance as grade level increases – see charts below for grades 3, 6 and 9.
Reading FCAT – Pinellas vs. Other Florida Counties
Improvement on the reading FCAT for grades 3, 6 and 9 has also been experienced throughout Florida with Pinellas students performing very well compared to the state and other Florida counties of similar size.
The percentage of Pinellas County students at or above level 3 on the mathematics FCAT for grades 3, 6 and 9 has also improved significantly over the years. However, progress in recent years has slowed, especially for grade 3 students who experienced a decline in 2009 and 2010.
- Student performance declines sharply between grades 3 and 6 and then improves by grade 9 - this pattern is a statewide occurrence.
Mathematics FCAT by Race/Ethnicity
Significant achievement differences also exist between racial and ethnic groups on the mathematics FCAT as shown below for grades 3, 6 and 9.
Mathematics FCAT – Pinellas vs. Other Florida Counties
Substantial improvement on the mathematics FCAT for grades 3, 6 and 9 has occurred throughout the state since 2002. During the last two years, however, Pinellas’ relative performance has lagged the state and other similarly sized counties.