The FCAT Test

In Florida, third grade students are required to pass the FCAT test before being promoted to the fourth grade and highschoolers must pass it in order to graduate. Learn how to help your student excel at this challenging set of exams.

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In 1998, the state of Florida began requiring the annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The FCAT's primary purpose is to assess a student's mastery of skills outlined in the Sunshine State Standards in reading, writing, math, and science.

Who Must Take the FCAT?

All public school students in the third to tenth grade are required to take the reading and math FCAT. Students in grades four, eight and ten take the writing test, while the science test is given to students in grades five, eight and ten. Students schooled at home are not required to take the FCAT, but their parents may request it. The results of the FCAT provide teachers, parents and students information about how kids are learning and performing in the Florida school system.

Interpreting the Results

The FCAT uses two types of testing and results. The first is a criterion-referenced test designed to see how well a student is able to acquire, learn, and use the specific skills and reach the goals outlined in an instructional unit or yearlong curriculum. It compares the achievement of all the students for that grade level in the Florida public school system.

The second type of testing and results are designed as norm-referenced tests, which compare Florida students to other students across the country based on educational skills and standards that tend to be universal to all 50 states. With the results of these tests, parents and teachers are able to see how individual students compare with students in their class, school district, state, and even the country. It also allows educators and administration to see if a school's education is effective.

Third grade students must pass the reading portion of the FCAT at level 2 or higher. If a child fails to do so, they will repeat the third grade. Similarly, tenth graders must successfully pass both their reading and math FCAT before they are allowed to graduate from high school. Students who fail to pass the test are given additional chances to retake the FCAT. Other grade-to-grade promotion rules are left up to individual school boards. This means your school board may have additional requirements. If you are unsure about your school district's promotion standards, Pupil Progression Plans should be available at your child's school and the school's district office.

Prepare Your Child for Success

Parents who want to help their child succeed in these tests can request a sample test booklet. These are provided to help students understand and practice the various types of questions they may see when taking the FCAT. Many students are nervous when it comes to standardized tests. Practice materials can help them obtain higher scores by making the test experience familiar and comfortable.

Knowing When to Ask for Help

Tutoring helps thousands of children every day catch up with their peers in subjects like math and reading. Tutoring can identify the areas where your student needs help. Some tutoring centers implement assessment tests before creating your child's lesson plans. They use the results of the tests to individualize the lessons. What's more, tutoring offers one-on-one attention and instruction. Tutors are able to create a bond with each individual and find the most effective way to present material to the student.

It can be hard to find the right tutor for your child. When your goal is a successful score on the FCAT, make sure the tutor is state-certified. State-certified tutors are licensed and are up-to-date on Florida's educational standards. This means they are knowledgeable about the various skills your child will be tested on at the end of the year.

And don't forget to research online tutoring centers. Online programs are just as effective as conventional centers and often are more convenient. This is because the student accesses their lesson online. Being able to access the lessons from the family computer eliminates the drive to and from a learning center in town.

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