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AIR Test to Replace FCAT

March 16, 2014 - 7:00pm

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart has selected the American Institutes for Research (AIR) assessment test to replace the FCAT, according to an announcement made by the Florida Department of Education on Monday.

Five groups submitted proposals to win the $220 million contract for Floridas next assessment test: ACT, the American Institutes for Research, McCann Associates, Pearson, and CTB/McGraw-Hill.

Ultimately, nonprofit AIR walked away with the contract.

"I am confident that this is the best choice for Floridas students," Stewart wrote in a letter to superintendents. "This assessment will measure their progress and achievement on Florida Standards, which, along with high-quality instruction, will give every student the opportunity to be college and career ready."

AIR has been delivering tests for over seven years and also holds contracts in nine other states. The non-profit will be partnering with Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) to develop and score student responses.

The new test will assess student achievement based on the new Florida Standards, which were adopted by the State Board of Education in February. According to a release from the department, the new test will provide a more authentic assessment of the Florida Standards, because it will include more than multiple choice questions. Students will also be required to create graphs and respond in different ways than they would on traditional tests.

The test comes after a flurry of changes for Floridas education standards. While Florida was initially onboard for the Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC) assessment test, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order to pull out of the financial responsibility of the test. In addition, Scott recommended three hearings across the state to gather public input on the standards. The hearings resulted in nearly 100 changes to the Common Core State Standards and a rebranding to bring the standards a little bit closer to home.

The selection of our new assessment tool is a critical step forward, said State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand. Florida students will be assessed on their knowledge of the Florida Standards, which will prepare them for success in college, careers and in life.

In terms of cost, the overall price of testing each student will decrease. Total costs for the current statewide assessments in all subject areas are $36.17 per student. Under the AIR test, the new cost would be $34.23 per student.

Don't expect the FCAT to go away completely, however. High school students still trying to achieve the score they need to graduate on their 10th-grade reading test will still take the FCAT in 2014-2015. The FCAT science exam will also still be administered in grades 5 and 8.

The AIR test will be first administered in the spring of 2015.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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