FCAT writing portion gets underway

caines | 2/28/2013, 4:30 a.m.

The first round of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT] kicked off last Tuesday with the writing portion of the exam for 4th, 8th and 10th graders. In FCAT 2.0 Writing, students were given a writing prompt that provided the topic. Fourth-graders wrote a narrative; eighth and 10th-graders wrote a persuasive essay. Make-up tests were scheduled for Wednesday. Officials with the Florida Department of Education [FDOE] say they hope to avoid problems that arose during the writing exam in 2012. To that end, they have updated some of the requirements on the exam. Criticism arose last year when the state toughened the standards, only to change the scoring system when it became apparent that students statewide had failed to score well. One change this year: students got an additional 15 minutes to organize and write their essays. Giving students a full hour to write their essays was based on the increased scoring expectations, according to FDoE officials and went into effect this school year. When will scores be available? Assuming that there are no snafus, students will learn how they fared on the writing test based on a one to six-point scale. There is no passing score for FCAT 2.0 Writing. However, the recent requirement revisions established that the percentage of students scoring 3.5 or above on Tuesdays assessment will be used as a component in calculating school grades. Students throughout the state have been working with their instructors to strengthen their essay writing for the past few months. More information about the FCAT and changes to the statewide assessment program can be seen at the FDOE website: FCAT.FLDOE.org. Miami Times staff report