The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is the foundation upon which the “Florida model” of education reform was built, serving as the basis for school and district report cards. FCAT result will also comprise half of teacher evaluations once districts design their legislatively required merit pay systems.
Florida rolled out the standardized test in 1998, and in 2010 tested students on math, reading, writing and science. School and district grades are based on both student scores and their improvement on the test from previous years.
An updated version of the test, known as FCAT 2.0, began phasing out the original version in 2010. The new test will be given to students as young as 3rd grade, and increases the difficulty of the math, science and reading tests.
The updated test will eventually include end-of-course exams for Algebra, Biology, Civics, Geometry and U.S. History.
Critics have argued tying standardized tests, such as the FCAT, to teacher pay encourages teachers or districts to cut corners or cheat to achieve better schools. In 2011, Florida asked 14 districts to review FCAT test with a high number of similar answers.