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New test to replace FCAT; James weighs in

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ROBERT ALLEN

Times Reporter

The state has chosen a replacement for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment, or FCAT exam. The new testing will commence during the 2014-15 school year. 

According to a March 17 press release from the Florida Department of Education, “The new Florida Standards for mathematics and English language arts stress a broader approach for student learning, including an increased emphasis on analytical thinking.”

Reginald James, superintendent of Gadsden County’s public schools, said the district has prepared and will continue to prepare for this shift. 

“This is new in terms of what they want students to do,” said James. “They’ll be better because of this particular 

adjustment.”

According to the press release, Gov. Rick Scott issued a new executive order declaring Florida public schools’ separation from the national standards dictated by PARCC or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. 

This order, according to the release, will “ensure that the state would be able to procure a test specifically designed for Florida’s needs without federal intervention.” 

James said he is confident Gadsden students will perform well. 

“I think we have some very talented teachers,” he said. “We’re a district that’s growing. We’ve come a long way.”

The superintendent said students generally need a year to become accustomed to a new type of testing. Scores will drop — and then rise again, he said. This change, however, will be more drastic. James described the new testing as a paradigm shift. 

Despite the challenge, James said his student will not make excuses — and the district will focus on successfully adjusting to the changes, not complaining about the 

situation. 

“I have reason to believe we’ll make whatever adjustment needs to be made, based on our history,” he said. “We’ve done some magnificent things over the years.” 

James didn’t question the merit of the new test in particular. However, he questioned the effectiveness of instituting new systems too frequently, noting the difficulties these changes cause both students and teachers. 

For example, the superintendent said the district’s teachers will need additional in-service days to begin learning about the new standards and how to approach them. 

“It’s a moving target,” said James. “They just keep moving the bar. They’re forever changing it. That’s frustrating.”

According to James, the students taking the FCAT this year also face an extra challenge: working toward success on one type of test when required to begin working toward success on a different type of test. 

“We don’t make the rules of the game,” said James. “We just have to play.”