Science Standards Update: Florida NGSSS versus National NGSS
The National Research Council, the National Science Teacher's Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Achieve have been working to develop the National Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). When the final draft of the NGSS is released, the FLDOE will analyze the NGSS to determine whether the new national science standards meet the goals and mission of the FLDOE strategic plan to best meet the needs of the students in Florida’s public schools. For the 2013-14 school year, the Florida science course descriptions will be comprised of the Florida NGSSS and the Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics.
On statewide science assessments, students in Florida public schools will continue to be tested on the Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Science.
Testing Update: FCAT Continues as State-wide Assessment Tool
With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English language arts and mathematics, Florida has challenged its students and teachers to set new goals for excellence in education in order that every student will be college and career ready at graduation. The Common Core Standards for English language arts and mathematics will be fully implemented in the state by the 2014-2015 school year.
While implementation of Common Core is underway, it's important to remember these standards are only for mathematics and English language arts. The Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS) will continue to be the majority of standards used for science and social studies courses (along with the appropriate Common Core Literacy Standards); the state-wide assessment for these subjects will continue to be the FCAT. Further, until the 2014-2015 school year, FCAT will continue to be the state-wide assessment for English language arts and mathematics.
Florida will begin assessment of mathematics and English language arts based on CCSS in the 2014-2015 school year. At that time, Florida students in grades 3 through 11 will take CCSS-aligned summative assessments in mathematics and English language arts.
Teacher Training Available
The FCAT Explorer/Focus Support Services Team is available to provide training to teachers and staff across the state. Support Services Staff can train any teacher, media specialist, school administrator, or other school staff in using the FCAT Explorer and Focus Teacher's Desk features.
Using a conference call format, Support Services Staff can provide hands-on, step-by-step guidance through the features of the Teacher's Desk, including enrollment, class and student management, reports, program features, and content review. Training can be done on an individual or group basis.
To schedule a teacher training session, call 1-888-750-3228.
Extra Practice with Free ePAT Downloads
The Florida Department of Education has partnered with Pearson Education to offer downloadable electronic practice assessment tests, known as ePATS. The practice testing environment is identical to the testing platform the students will experience on test day. These programs can help students become familiar with the test format and online tools used in the new electronic FCAT.
You can access the practice tests via the FLDOE portal. You may need to download the launcher to run the assessments on your computer. Options for both Mac and Windows platforms are available. Retakes, FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course practice tests are available. Options for Accomodated (TestHear) versions are available as well.
Evaluating Text Complexity under Common Core
One of the many changes in Common Core relates to how texts are deemed appropriate for a given age group. In the past many relied on Lexile, or other quantitative measures of text complexity. Appendix A for English Language Arts outlines a more robust process for evaluating text complexity that requires these quantitative measures be combined with a review by a group of teachers or other professionals. The links below offer the best information and training resources to implement these changes in your school.
You can read about the requirements in Appendix A. Exemplary texts for each grade level can be found in Appendix B.
A more recent document, supplemental to Appendix A, provides a new rubric for evaluating texts and an update to the ranges for text complexity. The supplement also explains in detail the categories included in this new rubric.
A PPT that explains need for more complex texts, and a rigorous process for selecting them, also offers professional training on text evaluation and range finding can be found here.
Common Core ELA Rubrics Available
In addition to sample test items and performance tasks, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has released rubrics for grading performance tasks. The released rubrics are available for grades 3 through 11. The rubrics are based on a 4-point scale and include reading and writing criteria (depending on the writing task).
You can also find the Model Content Frameworks for each grade. These frameworks are accompanied by text explanations detailing changes at each grade-level. Reading these texts will help teachers and administrators understand how students should be using texts in writing activities and what abilities students should be able to demonstrate at each level.
The written explanations (Model Content Frameworks) are here.
The rubrics are here.
Additional grades and subjects for each of these resources are available via links in the left column of the featured pages.
ELA Item Types for Common Core
As you may know, Florida has begun transitioning to the national standards known as Common Core. As part of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers), Florida will begin field testing Common Core-based summative assessment items in the 2013-2014 school year.
The Common Core approach to assessment is a rather significant departure from the current FCAT approach. Where FCAT is a once-a-year assessment, Common Core assessments will include formative, interim and summative assessments.* Additionally, the Common Core assessments, some of which are optional, will be given several times during the year—albeit for different purposes.
According to the PARCC website, PARCC's assessment system will include four parts: two summative, required, assessments; two non-summative, optional, assessment components; and a third non-summative component in English language arts/literacy (ELA) to assess speaking and listening skills.
All assessments will be given via computer and scored using a combination of automation and human scoring. The item types that will be featured in ELA include the following:
1. Technology-Enhanced Constructed Response (TECR): An interactive item in which students are asked to click and drag (evidence from the text), highlight text sections, or click on a component to complete an analytical step.
2. Evidence-Based Selected Response (EBSR): Two-part multiple-choice item in which students answer a question and then locate and provide evidence from the text to support that answer.
3. Prose-Constructed Response (PCR): An essay prompt based on the featured text, requiring text-based evidence for support (de-emphasizing personal experience).
These item types will cover the analysis of a single, rich, complex text. For more information and to see the prototypes, click here.
*Summative assessments are given after instruction is complete and are used to grade students' knowledge and abilities at a specific point in time. Formative assessment occurs during instruction and is used to inform instruction.
Common Core ELA Instruction Idea: TED Talks
Looking for a great way to integrate the Common Core listening and speaking benchmarks into your classroom? Would you like to find content that integrates the subject areas of science and history with the new ELA national standards? Consider using TED Talks' "Ed.Ted" lessons.
If you don't know about TED, you may want to check out the amazing offerings at the main website: www.tedtalks.com. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit that is devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading." TED holds two annual conferences and provides videos of the inspirational talks, under a Creative Commons license, for free. If you have never heard of TED, go to the TED Talks website and watch just one video and you will be hooked.
A new offering from TED includes instructional videos, with animated text and/or speeches delivered by some of the world's best and brightest. Following each 5- to 20-minute video, the lesson includes a series of multiple questions, and short and extended response questions. These questions cover a variety of skills, from finding the main idea and/or supporting details to comparing elements from the presentation. The lessons cover a variety of topics from science to the arts and literature and are extremely engaging. You can access these lessons here.
Common Core Toolkits for Teachers
The Florida Department of Education has released professional development toolkits for Florida's elementary school ELA teachers. These toolkits are designed to help teachers prepare for the transition from Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS) to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
The toolkits are available for grades K-2 and 3 -5 and include activities for the classroom, teaching strategies, materials and resources for formative assessment development. You can access the toolkits here.
Toolkits for Mathematics teachers are available on the PARCC Prototyping Project website and can be found here.
PARCC Releases Protypes for Testing
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), the consortium of states working to implement the national standards known as Common Core, has released the first set of prototypes for test items and tasks. These prototypes include materials for English language arts/literacy and mathematics and illustrate how content and skills outlined in Common Core will be assessed.
Items and tasks on the PARCC website are annotated with details as to which standard is being measured, with links to the revised PARCC Model Content Frameworks. You can access the prototypes here.
Are you using CA Security Suites as your virus protection?
Recently, the Support Services Team has received calls from home users who were having difficulty accessing parts of the FCAT Explorer program. After further discussion with users, we found that certain Internet Service Providers are using CA Security Suites (also CA Technologies) for virus protection.
Please contact us toll-free at (888)750–3228 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm), for our recommendations on how to resolve this issue.
Seven Strategies to Increase Student Success
Teachers, we know your days are full. You are the unsung heroes of education. This is why we designed FCAT Explorer so students can work independently, without the need for teacher involvement. However, many students will make better progress if they know you are paying attention to their work. Consider enrolling your students in classes so you can track their success on standards, benchmarks, and skills, and monitor whether they’re cleaning up their Challenge Lists.
We've included the list of tips below to help you make the most out of your students' time on FCAT Explorer.
1. Help build confidence. To build their confidence and help alleviate their test anxiety, make sure your students know that time spent practicing on FCAT Explorer, whether at school or at home, is time well spent. Explain to your students that FCAT Explorer is carefully designed to give them explicit practice on the skills they’ll need to be successful on the FCAT. FCAT Explorer adheres to the same Test Item and Performance Task Specifications that are used to build official FCAT test items. In addition, the FCAT Explorer design and development team works closely with experienced teachers and the professionals who build the FCAT to ensure that these practice programs focus explicitly on the skills that students may encounter on the official test.
2. Encourage productive practice. Remind students that good study habits are important when they’re practicing in the FCAT Explorer. Remind them that randomly clicking answers just to rush through a program is not going to help them build the skills they need to succeed on the FCAT.
3. Encourage self-monitoring. Instruct students that they can monitor their own progress by regularly reviewing their Explorer’s Report in each program.
4. Set goals and challenges. Motivate your students by challenging them to accomplish weekly tasks for completing an FCAT Explorer program prior to official FCAT testing.
5. Use the message center. Use the message center to post students’ assignments and provide encouragement. Clean out old messages regularly.
6. Establish a reward system. Use your imagination to develop a creative way to reward students for good progress or superior performance in FCAT Explorer. Consider an end-of-the-year pizza party or other incentive programs.
7. Encourage the application of good study skills. Encourage students to exercise all the important study skills you’ve taught them, such as regularly stopping and making sure they understand what they’ve read so far, reading each practice question carefully before choosing an answer, re-reading passages to find supporting text before submitting an answer, and so forth.
And remember, we're here to help. If you have any questions on how to set up classes or monitor student progress, please call us toll-free at 888-750-3228, Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. We would love to hear from you.
FCAT Explorer and Adobe Flash
Are you up to date?
Currently, most FCAT Explorer programs will run under Adobe Flash Player 6.0. However, it is a good idea to update the Flash Player program on your computer, especially if you want to take advantage of the new features planned for FCAT Explorer.
In June 2008, we launched Science Station: 5th Grade Benchmarks. Science Station and other programs launched in the new school year will run under Adobe Flash Player 7.0.
Please note: The current Flash Player version is 10.0, so if you've updated since October 2008, your Flash player will support all FCAT Explorer programs.
You can download Adobe Flash Player at no cost from the Adobe site. Click here to download Adobe Flash Player.
If you have problems installing the new Flash Player, you can find help from Adobe at this site: http://www.adobe.com/support/flashplayer/.
The Support Services Team is working hard to process enrollment files and get your sign-in names and passwords prepared. After the annual database purge, your district office sends in enrollment files to help us generate logins for students and teachers. To see if your district and school have been enrolled, click here.
To renew the database, sign-in names and passwords for teachers and students are removed every year. Typically within a few weeks of the start of school, new log-in credentials are available.
Thank you for your patience as we continue processing enrollment files in the next few weeks.
ATTENTION SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS: Your district will provide the Support Services Team with enrollment information for FCAT Explorer and Focus. If you add students into your school manually, you will run the risk of creating duplicate sign-in names and passwords for your students. Please check the Currently Enrolled Districts list to see when your district is enrolled. If you do not see your school in the list, please contact us at 888-750-3228 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) and we would be happy to assist you.
Best Practice Guidelines Offer Tips for Effective Use
FCAT Explorer Support Services team members have developed a set of Best Practice Guidelines to help you use FCAT Explorer practice programs as effectively as possible. The guidelines offer tips and suggestions in the following areas:
- Starting a New School Year
- Getting Your Students Started
- Signing On
- Exploring Your Teacher's Desk
- Monitoring Student Progress
- Getting Familiar with the Student Site
- Helping Students Succeed
- Exploring in the Classroom
- Encouraging After-School Use
- Getting Technical Assistance
To access the guidelines, click the link at the end of this article. On subsequent visits, you can click Educator Resources on the home pageyou'll find the FCAT Explorer Best Practice Guidelines link under the School Resources column.
Support Services team members developed the FCAT Explorer Best Practice Guidelines based on discussions and interactions with public school teachers throughout Florida. If you have additional ideas or suggestions to offer, click CONTACT US from the FCAT Explorer home page or your FCAT Explorer Teacher's Desk. You can also give your ideas to a Support Services team member by calling 888.750.3228 toll-free.
The FCAT Explorer Best Practice Guidelines
will be updated as Support Services team members collect new ideas and insights from you and other teachers, so check it out from time to time!