FAQ about the FCAT Testing, Scoring & the "Writing" Test  

  1.  How FCAT Writing is scored
2.  About the FCAT Writing test
3.  Who takes FCAT?


"The norm referenced items are part of the FCAT. It is one test. Each  student receives a report on performance on both the norm-referenced portion AND the state standards. Your district test administrator should have district and school results.

The reason students are tested on both is because we want to know two types of information: How do they compare with students nationwide AND how are they performing on our state standards. If we only used a norm-referenced test,  it would be much closer to minimum performance standards. So having both types of information tell us more about students."
~ words from Dept. of Education Office of School Improvement, Andrea (this was taken about in 2002)


Student graduation requires passing the HSCT in 11th grade or passing the FCAT in 10th grade.  If a student fails,  a student may retake the FCAT.   A 10th grader this year will be allowed to take the FCAT 6 times prior to his/her graduation date. After the March in 2001, another will be offered in  October 2001. After that the dates have not been set.


"Most students, including Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students, enrolled in the tested grade levels participate in the FCAT administration. Special accommodations are available and provided to ESE and LEP students."  This is taken from DOE site.
Students classified as ESOL take the FCAT; however, scores for students in an ESOL program less than two years are not included in an individual school's performance grade. (See s. 229.57(3)(7) and 6A-1.09981 (3)(a) FAC -- a State Board of Education rule) The scores are in the "total total" scores the districts receive. Students receiving ESOL services do generate additional dollars above the base student allocation but not as part of the exceptional student education funding matrix for services. The specific citation for this calculation is found in s. 236.081(1)(c) & (d), Florida Statutes.
Students transferring into a school after October will take the FCAT, HOWEVER, their scores will not count towards the school grade.
Students grades 3 - 10th grade take FCAT reading, math and Florida Writes tests (statewide assessments)  unless their IEP indicates that they should not.  For more information, see: http://fcat.fldoe.org/ Look particularly for FCAT Myths vs. Facts and the FCAT Briefing Book as well as other interesting pieces about FCAT.


The school grading rule is found in 6A-1.09981   There must be 30 student scores in the group for a grade to be able to be generated. Schools that serve very special populations where the majority of students receive intensive exceptional student education services or the site is a true alternative school where students flow in and out for short periods of time may not be graded.


I was told that the newly released FCAT scores are "raw" scores and that some scores will be deleted. One school expected about 70 scores to be dropped. Is this true?

"The recent FCAT scores are "total total" scores--they show scores for every single child who took the test. School grades are based on the results of eligible students--all special ed kids' scores do not count in the school's grade, kids have to be there in both October and February, etc.  So it is very possible and most probable that the school grades--when all factors are considered--would be different from the raw or total-total scores recently released." ~ Andrea Willett, DOE


Question:  "In levels, level 1 and 2 seems to be below grade level from what I read on the DOE FCAT info page. Would the highest of level 2 indicate perhaps a next grade level lower reading ability? We have about 40% reading at level one. Now I know that category would have a wide performance gap since it is the bottom. However, what would be the top achievement of a level one? I.E. grade 10 level 1 would perhaps have the highest score in that category to equate perhaps a grade 8 or 6 reading level."  ~Theresa

"Each performance level at each grade level has a range of scale scores within that level. The ranges are adopted by the State Board of Education in rule 6A-1.09422. We don't have the type of grade equivalent measures you describe for these scores.  However, like grade equivalents, looking at the range of the scale score (like looking at the grade equivalent of 3.1 vs. 3.6) can give you an indication of where the student's score falls within the performance level and how close they might be to a different performance level. Each student's individual report describes the range for that child's score. Did you read the explanation at http://www.firn.edu/doe/sas/fcat/pdf/fcrpdes.pdf  that may help too. "  ~ Andrea Willett, DOE


QUESTION:  "Can anyone enlighten me as to whom and what credentials they possess, are employed in the scoring process for the writing portion of FCAT? This is or was the Florida Writes program."
Answer from a FL-SAC member

"All persons who score FCAT are called "readers" and are required to have earned a bachelor's degree in a field related to the tasks being scored.  Readers are hired using a screening process to ensure that they meet the minimal education requirements. The screening process must also include an interview and an evaluation of the applicants written response to FCAT performance tasks like the ones the reader will be expected to score.  Applicants who are accepted are trained to use the rubric by scoring sample papers. After training, each applicant must take a test to qualify as a reader. All applicants must score 70% exact agreement with a set of papers previously scored by Florida educators. This process is repeated for each prompt, each year. That is, Florida educators (classroom teachers and district curriculum supervisors) score a set of papers for each prompt each year, and these papers are used to train and qualify readers.  Applicants who do not qualify are dismissed and paid for time served." ~ K

"J," a FL-SAC member says, "As a past FCAT Writes Range Finder, the process for scoring FCAT Writes papers
goes like this:

"First, a test prompt is given to approximately 1500 students, then a group of English teachers, Language Arts Supervisors, and test administrators, sit for four days from 8 to 5 and read the 1500 papers together assigning a score from the rubric and determining the parameters for each score. If the prompt is valued as a good one, it becomes the prompt for that year. Student papers are then graded by two readers. Readers are made up of retired educators and/or college degreed applicants who go through a two week training period on how to score the essays. If one reader gives a paper a 6.0 and another gives it a 5.0, the paper is awarded a 5.5. If one gives it a 6.0, and another a 4.0, the paper goes to a third grader, and then to a committee for review. If a scorer consistently (5 papers) scores papers incorrectly, the scorer is pulled and dismissed. All of the papers scored by that scorer are returned to the bin for regarding."

Vic, a FL-SAC member, adds:

"In response to a couple of inquiries from members, here's what I know about the organization that scores the FCAT writing exam, (nee Florida Writes):

The company that does the scoring, on a contract with State Ed. Dept., is -- or was just before FCAT began -- Measurement Inc. I don't believe it's local but does have a permanent office in Tampa.

Scorers are hired on a project basis, (4-6 weeks generally). Bachelor degree is required. The first day of the project is orientation of all who have passed the initial screening for qualifications. The next two days are practice scoring sessions with prototype tests and substantial time devoted to explanation of how the scoring rubric works and why it works that way. At the end of the two days, those who are not able to master the concept of the scoring rubric are paid for the three days and excused. Probably 10 - 20% of the roomful of applicants are in that category.

As the scoring begins "for real", scorers are divided into groups of 8-12 people, with a veteran as team leader. Every paper is read by one scorer in each of two teams. If the scores assigned to any paper by the two scorers differ by more than a full point, then the two team leaders negotiate and, if they can't agree on a score, the decision is made by the staff member coordinating the project. The rubric, as most of you know, is a six point scale, with scoring done by half-points: 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, . . . .etc.

None of the papers scored in the Tampa facility are from schools in any of the Bay Area counties. Of course, none are identified with either a student name or school identification."


"The Florida Writes Assessment test began in the fall of 1990 to measure your child's "true" ability in writing, something that traditional multiple choice tests failed to do. Direct writing assessment applies many of the principles used by exemplary teachers to develop effective writing. The strength of large-scale assessment is that all student papers are scored against a common standard.  Understanding what that common standard is can be the key to your sophomore's success on the Florida Writes test.  Writing has many different forms. The Florida Writes test measures one form--essay writing, and it is even limited to two types, persuasive and informative. It measures a student's ability to write well in these two areas in a timed situation. "  ~ quoted from a FL-SAC member and teacher

  FL-SAC member wrote about the FCAT:
Three points:
1. "There is a norm-referenced component of FCAT that allows each Florida student to be compared to a national norm.

2. I would urge you to review the Sunshine State Standards and grade level expectations before you dismiss them. They are NOT what we all learned in school 30 years ago. You can read all about them and print copies at the web site: http://www.fldoe.org/bii/curriculum/sss/. SSS=Sunshine State Standards

3. With regard to teaching to the test, I certainly HOPE teachers are teaching reading, writing and math. I send both my children to school to learn those things. As far as I'm concerned, the FCAT should be a blip on the radar screen because my expectations for my kids and their teachers are much higher. But the FCAT is an excellent external check on the system for ALL children."

More FCAT, Sunshine Standards, with National standards...
"Florida developed the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) to set clear targets for what Florida students need to know and be able to do. The standards have been reviewed nationally and are aligned to other states in that a student achieving the SSS is prepared to be successful wherever that student may go in the future. The FCAT measures a student's progress towards these standards; hence, it is a "Florida" test. So, since Florida's accountability system was designed with the idea that our students do not always stay in Florida, and since the standards have a "national" flavor, it is with some measure of confidence that we can offer the test results and make some decisions about student and school performance based on those measures. Florida teachers have risen to the challenge of changing the way they deliver instruction to meet the higher expectations of the SSS. I have confidence that they will continue to do so--we have a wonderful cadre of teachers in this state and they are working very hard to meet the needs of every child."~ Andrea

In Osceola High School students in the 10th grade, first semester, FCAT wheel class ...well, any parent who refuses to have their child enroll/take this class must sign a form/waiver that states that they, the parent, assumes all responsibility for their child passing the FCAT as a graduation requirement. This hold the parent accountable. (~submitted by Nina C. Kissimmee)

The state does not require 1st or 2nd grade testing. (~ submitted by Kathy M., Leon Co.)

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