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Ready Or Not, Students, New Florida Exam Is Here

The new Florida Standards Assessments begin today. Most students will take the exam online, though some students will take a paper and pencil version of the writing exam.

Extra Ketchup / Flickr

The new Florida Standards Assessments begin today. Most students will take the exam online, though some students will take a paper and pencil version of the writing exam.

At Miami’s iPrep Academy, getting ready for the state’s new standardized test includes rapping.

Two students are recording the daily announcements, telling classmates when and where they need to be starting today.

“Monday is ninth graders, with last name A to G,” one student raps, in a rhyme that’s no threat to Miami’s Rick Ross.

“On Tuesday, it’s ninth graders with last name H through Z,” his partner continues.

“All testing is in room 2 – 0 – 4!” they conclude together, Beastie Boys-style.

Today marks the start of testing season for Florida schools. Students have state exams scheduled every few weeks from now until the end of the school year.

It’s the first time students will take a new test called the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA, which replaces most FCAT exams.

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Miami-Dade Superintendent: Get Your Shots (Even Flu)

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

Miami-Dade school leaders say are concerned about a measles outbreak spreading across the country and urge parents to vaccinate their children.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says vaccinations work and the district is tracking whether students get their required shots. Carvalho says 98 percent of Miami-Dade students have been vaccinated or are getting the shots now.

“We’ve seen recently what the outbreak of measles in Arizona can do to a community,” Carvalho says. “That can not be the case in Miami. So we are diligent in ensuring our children are properly immunized prior to beginning their school year.”

That includes 1,200 students new to the district this year, many escaping dangerous communities in Central America.

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Florida FAFSA Completion, By The Numbers

Yesterday we told you about a program in Miami-Dade County schools to help more students complete the federal financial aid application, known as the FAFSA.

Here’s some graphs to

Here’s how Florida compares to California, Texas and the national average for the rate of high school graduates who submit a FAFSA:

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Why Paperwork Is Worth Millions To Florida College Students

Miami Beach Senior High college adviser Maria Sahwell helps Anahi Hurtado, left, and her mother fill out the FAFSA.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Beach Senior High college adviser Maria Sahwell helps Anahi Hurtado, left, and her mother fill out the FAFSA.

It’s a midweek school night at Miami Beach Senior High School.

Students, their parents and siblings — roughly 80 people in all — are waiting in the school’s library to get on a computer and answer a lot of questions.

Miami Beach Senior High college adviser Maria Sahwell and experienced counselors will walk families through filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

By this time of year many high school seniors have already sent in their first college applications. Now, the question is how to pay for it.  And for most that means the FAFSA.

But half of Florida high school graduates don’t complete the form, losing out on at least $100 million dollars for college each year.

Anahi Hurtado wants to study political journalism. She and her mother, Susy Riener, quickly run into their first obstacle.

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What Florida’s New Reading Exam Means For Your Third Grader

Third graders who earn the lowest score on Florida's new statewide reading test this school year, are still at risk of repeating third grade.

OSDE / Flickr

Third graders who earn the lowest score on Florida's new statewide reading test this school year, are still at risk of repeating third grade.

We’ve been answering audience questions about Florida’s new statewide test, the Florida Standards Assessments.

A parent asked us on Facebook: “Please find out for us parents of third graders, who face mandatory retention if they fail the new reading assessment this spring, how the state plans to deal with them. Will they return to 3rd grade after the cut scores are determined in Winter 2015?”

The bottom line: third graders can still be held back next year if they score the equivalent of a 1, out of 5, on the reading test. But those students are still eligible to to advance to fourth grade through one of state’s exemptions, including a portfolio or passing an alternative exam.

Florida students will begin taking the Florida Standards Assessments in early March, with testing running on and off through mid-May. But the State Board of Education isn’t expected to set final targets — known as cut scores — until Winter 2015.

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Your Guide To The Florida Standards Assessments

We’re taking this week to help parents and students understand the new Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take for the first time beginning in March.

The math, reading and writing exam (reading and writing are combined as English language arts) is intended to measure how well students in third through eleventh grades understand Florida’s Common Core-based standards. The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

We’ve pulled together the most important things to know about the new exam in this presentation. Click on the right or left side of the slide to advance or go back.

Meet Florida’s New Statewide Test

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to...

Screen shot / Florida Department of Education

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to fill in the blanks, but provides more possible choices than answer spaces.

This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards.

This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It’s known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online.

What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

We gathered your questions about the new exam from our Public Insight Network. Here’s what you you wanted to know — and what it’ll mean for students and schools.

Bill Younkin from Miami Beach is wondering about the fact that the exam’s online.

“What type of test will it be? How will it be administered?” he asks. “Will there be a paper and pencil alternative? What types of questions will it contain? How long will it take to administer?”

Last year, Florida students took 3.8 million tests using computers – so online exams are nothing new in Florida. But the Florida Standards Assessment is different from past exams

The new exam will be more interactive (you can see practice questions here).

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Charting Florida College And University Graduates By Pay

The Florida Department of Education released the first edition of an annual report compiling Florida college and university graduate earning data last week.

Generally, graduates with science degrees were more likely to earn more in their first year of employment after college.

But which school’s graduates earned the most money? Check out these charts created with report data. First, bachelor degrees:

Graduates earning bachelor degrees from Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University had the highest median income in their first year of work.

Economic Security Report / Florida Department of Education

Graduates earning bachelor degrees from Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University had the highest median income in their first year of work.

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How Florida’s Graduation Rates Compare To The Nation

Florida’s graduation rate increased by five percentage points between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years, according to new U.S. Department of Education graduation rate data released today. But despite the improving rate, just six states and the District of Columbia have a lower graduation rate than Florida –the same number as last year.

4-28 GraduationRates

The bright spots? Florida’s graduation rates for Hispanic students and English language learners are near the national average. Just eight states have a lower dropout rate than Florida, at 2.1 percent. The national dropout rate is 3.3 percent.

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The Florida Tests Which Will Remain After The Switch To Common Standards

The FCAT will mostly disappear from Florida schools next year. But like a zombie, the state's science exam will still carry the FCAT name.

Scott Beale / Flickr

The FCAT will mostly disappear from Florida schools next year. But the state's science exam will still carry the FCAT name.

The final bell begins tolling today for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Florida schools are scheduled to complete the switch to new K-12 math and language arts standards based on Common Core this fall. New standards will require a new test.

So Florida is switching to math and language arts exams produced by the American Institutes for Research.

FCAT is going away — with one exception. Fifth and eighth grade students will still take the FCAT science exam. Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle noted the exam will stagger on:

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