In the next few weeks, the man in charge of kindergarten through twelfth grade education in Florida has to answer a multiple choice question: Which standardized test should the state pick to replace the FCAT?
The new test is part of Florida’s move to new, tougher education standards known as Common Core. Students will begin taking the test in 2015.
Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said recommending a test is the Florida Department of Education’s top short-term priority.
The leading contender is known as PARCC — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. PARCC is an online test which would ask students to perform puzzle-like tasks in order to answer questions.
“We have to get the assessment right,” Bennett recently said. “Whether that’s PARCC, or whether that is a different assessment system that other states are, frankly, looking at as well. If you were to ask me item number one next 30 to 60 days? That’s item number one; we have to make that decision.”
Bennett has many things to consider before deciding, such as whether the new exams are any good, or what they cost. Florida could stick with PARCC, decide to develop its own test or go with a test designed by a testing company, such as ACT.
The decision is important because one goal of adopting common education standards was that states would adopt common tests as well. That way students in Appalachicola could compare their scores with those in Atlanta or Albuquerque.
States across the country will be watching. Florida is an education trend-setter and a leader among the states developing PARCC. If Florida stays with PARCC, it may persuade other states to stay the course. If Florida goes a different way, other states might also drop the PARCC test.
StateImpact Florida’s John O’Connor and Sammy Mack examined the decision in this week’s broadcast feature. Click the the story to listen.