Putting Education Reform To The Test

A Parent’s Guide To How New Common Core Tests Are Different From FCAT

By now, most Florida parents have heard the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is on its way out. But they might not know a whole lot about what’s replacing the FCAT.

The most likely replacement is known as PARCC, or the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Students are scheduled to begin taking the test in the spring of 2015 (more on that later).

We’ve put together a handy video that lays out the differences between the two exams.

A Parent’s Guide To How New Common Core Tests Are Different From FCAT from StateImpact Florida on Vimeo.

Here are some of the key differences:

  • The test is designed to be taken online. It’s one reason why school will need to upgrade their Internet bandwidth and add computers or tablets over the next few years.
  • The test is more interactive. Questions are more like puzzles, often asking students solve a series of interrelated problems or perform a task. Often, students will need to type in answers.
  • Fewer multiple choice questions. Many of the questions are open-ended and students will be less likely to guess the correct answer.
  • Same task, multiple ways. The new exam often asks students to perform similar tasks multiple ways to make sure they understand the concept. For instance, elementary students might be asked to convert 3/4ths to another, equivalent fraction and then place both on a number line.

Another set of differences between PARCC and FCAT revolve around when and how often the two tests are given. FCAT exams in each subject are given only once a year.

  • Students will take PARCC exams twice during the school year.
  • The first time is about three-quarters of the way through the school year — February, or so. That test will require students to perform task and type out answers and will be graded by human scorers.
  • The test will be two days of English Language Arts and one day of math.
  • The second round of testing will be one day each of English Language Arts and math, coming about 90 percent of the way through the school year. Those exams will be objective right-or-wrong answers which will be graded by computer.
  • The test scores are cumulative. In total, PARCC will increase the time students spend testing each year.
  • Students in 11th grade will be required to take the new exam.
  • There are two optional PARCC exams being designed. One would be given at the beginning of the year and the other halfway through the year.

Florida schools are changing tests as part of the switch to new education standards, known as Common Core.

The standards provide a framework for what students should know at each grade level in math and English language arts courses. The standards also will require students to support their claims using evidence from their lessons.

Experts say the standards are tougher and ask more of students.

What else is different?

Some of Florida’s current tests will remain. Here’s a chart to show which tests will go and which will stay:

2013-2014 Test
2014-2015 Test
3FCAT 2.0 Reading & MathCommon Core English Language Arts & Math
4FCAT 2.0 Reading, Writing & MathCommon Core English Language Arts & Math
5FCAT 2.0 Reading, Math & ScienceCommon Core English Language Arts, Math & FCAT 2.0 Science
6FCAT 2.0 Reading & MathCommon Core English Language Arts & Math
7FCAT 2.0 Reading & Math, CivicsCommon Core English Language Arts & Math, Florida Civics
8FCAT 2.0 Reading, Writing, Math & ScienceCommon Core English Language Arts, Math & FCAT 2.0 Science
9FCAT 2.0 ReadingCommon Core English Language Arts & Math
10FCAT 2.0 Reading & WritingCommon Core English Language Arts & Math
11None requiredCommon Core English Language Arts & Math
12None requiredNone required
Course-Specific Exams (taken at completion of course)Algebra I, Biology I, Geometry & U.S. History Common Core Algebra 1, Common Core Algebra 2, Florida Biology 1, Common Core Geometry, Florida U.S. History

Source: Florida Department of Education

There are still questions about when Florida students will begin taking the new test, and which test they will take.

Though Florida will most likely choose PARCC, Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said the state will consider all its options. Bennett said he also wants the option of a paper and pencil test at first.

Lawmakers have also proposed a bill that would delay the use of new exams until schools have the proper technology and Internet bandwidth in place to administer the exam.

Have more questions about Common Core standards or the new test? Send them our way and we’ll answer them in future posts. Email us at florida@stateimpact.org and put “Core Questions” in the subject line.

Correction: We’ve updated the chart to correct when students must take Florida’s Civics course.


  • voicereason

    As an educator, I think this test sounds like an upgrade of the FCAT. According to this article anyway, it allows for different learning styles.

  • Nadine Fisher-Kirby

    Whose profitting off of all.of this.?
    Clearly the children are not gonna benefit !

    • Guest

      Follow the money…. Who has the most to gain by moving education to computers? In a year or two, Florida schools are supposed to move to all digital books. High school students are now required to take at least one online class in order to graduate. The testing companies and education software companies are raking in the dough. Some schools are already piloting computer based lesson programs where the lesson is pre-made and the teacher is more or less the guide for the show. The Gates Foundation is one group really pushing this education reform, along with some politicians with deep pockets (and most likely big investments in this technology).
      Hmmmm…. Bill Gates and computers – what’s the connection?

      You are right. The children won’t benefit. Most people have no idea how much instructional time is lost due to state and district level tests; it is truly mind boggling. Of course, the state and local school districts never factor in all those extra testing days when deciding what needs to be taught within a school year. Consequently, teachers must teach at a frantic pace to make up all that missed time, and the kids just end up as statistics.

      And the country wonders why student achievement hasn’t shown improvement! If our system was so broken and failing 30 – 40 years ago, and all our teachers were so bad before reform, how the heck did all these politicians ever manage to get through high school and college (and probably law school)? I think every politician should be required to spend a full year teaching in a public high school before he/she is allowed to propose or pass any education law.

  • The real truth is….

    D is not 3/4 on the number line! It’s broken in 5 part and D would be 80% or 4/5! Is this really what we have to look forward too?

    • Guest

      I thought the same thing. Crazy!

    • StateImpactJOC

      Watch it again. A is 0, B is 1/4, C is 1/2, D is 3/4 and E is 1. There are five points on the number line, so it is comprised of four 1/4-unit segments.

  • cindy

    Why couldn’t that be done on a piece of paper with open-ended boxes for answers? Does it tell us any more than before? Basically, we are changing the entire country so that tests can be graded electronically.

    Like changing standards, curriculum and tests in every single school to a bubble – test so you can boost the scantron machine business. This is simply a way to boost the tech/ed industry.

  • 2much2

    There is an error on this chart. In Florida, Civics is a 7th grade course, and starting 2013-14, students must take the EOC in 7th grade, along with the FCAT. In 2014-15, they will also be taking the new tests replacing the FCAT, AND will be taking Civics EOC in 7th grade (plus the Algebra test if they are at that level in MS)

    • StateImpactJOC

      Thanks. We’ve updated the chart.

  • amandamore

    Opt Out Orlando and other groups all over the state will provide guidance to help parents opt out. Your third grader can only flunk. Scarsdale started pulling their kids from testing years ago. The school even has to provide another enriching activity to do besides if necessary. Any national test that flunks 30% in Massachussetts will flunk 60% in Florida. idiots. But parents have awakened and teachers have even voted to help parents opt out their children.

  • concerned Mom

    As a Mom with a 7th grader and A 19 year old in college, May you all should think about as you hire these teachers, you should hire them in there degreed subject.For example, If you hire and math major, do not put them teaching english! Also, when you hire them, tell them they are going to teach and they will let kids take their test home! As you higher these test standards, you must expect more from the teacher to teach. Its up to the kids to study, but it is up to the teacher to teach what they study! I believe in kids having high quality education! I do believe teachers are to put out the higher teaching! It takes two to tango! 1+1= understanding and good scores ! You expect students to make better, well expect teachers to teach BETTER! It’s a give and take process. I am from the gulf coast area in a rural area small town 2A SCHOOL, our area is so small that 7-12 grades are considerd high school. We have teachers like this. I know all is not like this. Having a good education is great and should be expected but you know you need some one that has one to teach it in the quality you expect them to learn it….so as you all up the standards for students, in turn around up the standards to teach them!

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