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Get Your #2 Pencils – FCATs Get Underway

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(Credit: AP)

(Credit: AP)

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MIAMI (CBS4) – They’ve studied, they’ve reviewed and they’ve taken practice tests.

For nearly two million Florida public school students it all comes down to Monday when the state begins to administer the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Over the next two weeks students will be tested on reading comprehension, math skills and science.

“No video games and last night they went to bed early,” said parent Randy Olsavsky.   His twin sons Matthew and Michael took the first phase of the FCAT Monday.

“It’s kind of a little harder but if you keep checking and underlining it will help,” said Matthew.  Their mom credits their teacher with getting them prepared.

Testing includes a writing test for students in grades 4, 8 and 10; reading and mathematics tests for students in grades 3-10 and a science test for students in grades 5, 8 and 11. During the test, teachers must cover all classroom walls, and students are not permitted to have any electronic devices on their bodies, including cell phones.

Their scores will be used to help determine their school’s success, teacher quality and whether they can advance a grade or receive a diploma.

“The anxiety that kids are feeling on the FCAT is normal,” said psychologist Dr. Fabian Redler. “This is not a test you need an “A” in. Do your best, it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

“The second thing is to remember they are better trained than any other test they may do,” Dr. Redler continued. “The next thing is to remember the is on the teacher rather than them.”

For schools, the stakes are high. Those that make big improvements on previous years will likely receive more funding.

Schools that perform worse could face sanctions, including adding remedial classes or, in worse cases, a takeover of the school by the state.

In addition, as the state transitions into a merit-pay system, teachers will face the grim reality of having to teach the test as much, if not more, than the regular subject material.

The start date of this year’s FCAT period was pushed back by lawmakers to give students more time in class to get ready.

Also this year, the reading exams and most math exams have been rewritten to meet new academic standards. While most FCAT exams are still administered on paper,  this year 10th grade students will take the math exams online.

This year Florida will begin moving away from the broad FCAT for high school students to an end of year exam.  This year 9th graders will not be taking the math portion of the FCAT.  Instead they will take the new Algebra 1 end-of-course exam in May.

Private and parochial school students are not required to take the FCAT.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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