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26837 Tanic Drive
Wesley Chapel
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Filtering by Tag: FCAT

An Alternative to High-Stakes Testing

Kerri Milyko

In the news, mom groups, and talk radio, people are talking about the “Opt Out” movement that is spreading across our country.  A good number of teachers and parents, not to mention students, are upset over the number and type of high-stakes tests that our students are required to take and are opting out of taking the tests.  While I would agree that some of these new, unverified, and/or poorly designed tests are not suited for our students when such serious consequences for both student and teacher are contingent upon their results, some form of testing is necessary for progress monitoring.  Reliable, objective progress monitoring should guide teacher instruction and intervention based upon the individual student.

Some schools in Hillsborough and Pasco counties are starting to use a beautiful progress monitoring tool for students on Level 2 or Level 3 RtI (see previous article about RtI). These assessments are called Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) probes.  These assessments are derived from and closely resemble the current curriculum utilized in the classroom.  Furthermore, these assessments are administered for a brief time period (1 min to 5 min) on a more frequent basis (weekly) when compared to standardize testing.  CBM probes have been found to enhance individualized instruction, predict performance on targeted areas, improve teacher preparation, and serve as a test to recognize academically at risk students. Teachers may develop CBM probes independently or the school may purchase them from a company specializing in CBM generation.  Regardless of how the CBM probes are developed, they are extremely useful and available to all teachers. 


When any test is given once, the utility is mostly one of reporting than of intervention.  This is the case for the FCAT, FSA, ITBS, PARCC, SAT, and other similar tests.  They are so long and burdensome for teacher and student that they are only administered once and cannot guide intervention.  All they can do is report if the child is on level at the end of the school year.  This is unlike the CBM.  The CBM, since administered briefly and weekly, can immediately report to the teacher if the student starts to fall behind other classmates, in what area, and that intervention is warranted to change progress.  During the first few weeks of CBM assessment, student performance on a CBM probe is plotted on a chart and a goal is set for where the teacher would like the student to reach by the end of the year.  The projected performance goal line is drawn on the graph.  Student progress, based on weekly CBM probes, is then evaluated with respect to a pre-established goal line (i.e., trend or learning line).  If CBM probe performance tracks the desired trajectory as displayed on each student’s chart, an instructional change is not necessary and the child’s performance is considered progressing at an appropriate rate. On the other hand, if behavior falls below the line, performance is deemed below grade level where an intervention is warranted.  Finally, if CBM probe performance exceeds what was anticipated, then a new goal is created based on the advanced performance. 

So, while we join the parents, teachers, and students in the frustration over high-stakes testing that serve very limited utility, we want to educate parents that an alternative is available.  Testing, progress monitoring, assessment or any other word you choose for objective evaluation is important.  But there is an unconventional replacement that can still serve the purpose for reporting student level, but does so more frequently so that it is functional to student and teacher behavior.

FCAT, Retention, and Your Options

Kerri Milyko, Ph.D. BCBA

It’s that time of year when the parents of every 3rd grader cringe.  Waiting until May to get the results from the teacher with the added qualifier of whether or not your student is allowed to progress to 4th grade is close to torture.  So much importance is placed on the 3rd grade reading portion of the FACT since it dictates whether or not your student will advance to 4th grade. 

Last year, 17-19% of 3rd graders in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties received a “1” on the FCAT (   According to the Florida Department of Education, a score of “1” suggests “minimum success with grade-level content”.  Therefore, teachers of these students would notify the parents that the student would be retained to repeat the 3rd grade.  So, your child’s future lies in the hands of 1 lonely test score?  What if your student was sick when he/she took the test?  What if he/she didn’t have decent sleep the night before the reading section?  What if your student was too distracted by his/her classmate tapping her pencil on the desk?  What if your student just had an off-day?  There are a few other avenues that the teacher and student can take to increase the student’s chances to progress to 4th grade.

The first option is to have your student’s reading teacher compile a portfolio of the student’s work demonstrating proficiency of grade level work that is equivalent to an FCAT score of “2”.  The portfolio must meet five criteria: 1) the work is selected by the student’s teacher, 2) the work is an accurate picture of the student’s independent ability (classroom work), 3) comprehension work covers 60% narrative stories and 40% expository stories averaging 500 words per story, 4) the work meets the Sunshine State Standard Benchmarks (3 work examples for each benchmark at 70% or above), and 5) the portfolio must be signed by the principal validating it as an accurate assessment of reading.

A second option is for the student to take an alternative standardized assessment such as the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).  If a student performs over 45th percentile on the reading portion of these tests, the school has to accept the SAT or ITBS score over the FCAT score and promote the student according to Florida law.  Further, if the student did not perform well on the first administration of the standardized test, he/she may take it again 30 days later.  As a parent, you will have to find someone who is certified to administer these tests.  Luckily, at Precision TLC, we are able to administer these tests for you!  Natalie Mendoza, M.A., who we luckily have on staff, is a certified teacher and able to administer these tests.  Please click here to learn more about Natalie and how to schedule a standardlized test.

Click here to read the Flordia law statutes addressing these options in detail.

Click here to read a flyer from FL DOE regarding FCAT Frequently Asked Questions.

If you follow our blog, you know that we are not strong advocates for one-shot-in-the-dark standardized tests.  Yet they seem to be unavoidable in the public school system.  We, therefore, have decided to use these tests to work the system at the school’s level according to Florida law.  If you receive a request for a parent-teacher conference to review FCAT scores and you are even slightly nervous about the discussion of retention, then print this blog out and bring it to the meeting.  Be an advocate for your child and not accept retention if you do not believe it is in the best interest for your student.  Exhaust all options so that your child can be promoted!