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Parent's Guide to the FCAT: 4th Grade Reading and 5th Grade Math, Second Edition
By Cynthia Johnson
KaplanCopyright © 2001 Cynthia Johnson
All right reserved.
Although several years have passed since you were nine years old, your grade-school experience and your child's are probably not very different. There are still spelling bees, dodgeball games at recess, and giggling fits during class in which students try to stop laughing, but just can't. These are all memories you can share with your child. However, the memory of spending weeks in intensive preparation for a series of standardized tests is one your child will have all on his or her own.
The tests in question make up the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or the FCAT. The fourth-grade exam, which roughly 150,000 children take annually, is a reading test, while the fifth-grade FCAT is a mathematics exam. Both the Grade 4 Reading and Grade 5 Math FCATs are a mixture of multiple-choice questions, short open-ended questions, and extended open-ended questions. Florida fourth-graders also have to take the Writing FCAT, which is a forty-five-minute essay-writing exam.
These aren't just any three tests, mind you. In fact, with so much emphasis being placed on these exams, you'd think the fourth- and fifth-graders who take them should be given the right to vote as a reward, at least in state elections. Seriously, though, quite a bit is at stake, for both the child and the school district. The state of Florida made history in 1999 when it passed Governor Jeb Bush's A+ Education plan, initiating the first statewide voucher program in the United States. Under the plan, each of Florida's twenty-five hundred schools receives a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F depending on how well its students fared on the FCAT reading, writing, and math tests. If a school receives an F twice in four years, then students at that school become eligible for an education voucher, worth about $4,000, which they can use at another school of their choice. This new school can be a private school, a religious school, or a qualified public school (a public school with a C grade or higher).
Two elementary schools in Pensacola became the first schools to fail twice. Students there qualified for vouchers in the fall of 1999.
The A+ Education plan also determines how money is allocated among Florida schools. Schools that receive an F become eligible for improvement grants worth as much as $25,000, as well as incentive grants of up to $100 per pupil. It is interesting to note that these same incentive grants are also automatically given to schools that received an A, showing that money is available for both the high-scoring and low-scoring schools.
However, the FCAT score your child receives is not just a matter of concern for the school district. It is currently up to the local school board to decide whether or not a minimum FCAT score is necessary for moving up to the next grade. In some cases, students who fare poorly on the FCAT are sent to summer school in order to improve their score. This practice ran into some problems in 2000, since the FCAT scores were not ready by the time school was completed. (All the multiple-choice problems had been graded, but the open-ended responses were still being scored.) As a partial solution to this problem, in 2001 Education Commissioner Charlie Crist developed a system in which results for the multiple-choice part of the exam were released first, and the results for the entire tests -- including the open-response questions -- were released later. Needless to say, this situation created some confusion.
Many of you are already aware of these facts, which is why you picked up this book. Your child's teacher is probably already doing some FCAT-related work in the classroom, but nothing is better for your child than receiving extra personal tutoring from someone he or she trusts, namely, you. Contained in this book are all the facts, tips, stories, questions, activities, and advice you will need to help your child succeed on the fourth-grade reading and fifth-grade math FCAT. Parent's Guide to the FCAT: Grades 4 and 5 covers test-taking strategies as well as what information is needed on the math and reading portions. While the information is sometimes rather dry, we've tried to make the chapters interesting as well as informative, both for you and your child. By analyzing and discussing the tests in detail, our goal is not only to provide the basic knowledge needed to excel on the tests, but to instill a sense of confidence through familiarity, since feeling confident and prepared for the FCAT is a key factor in how a student fares on the test.
After reading this book, both you and your child should feel ready and able to take on the FCAT first, and then the next grade at school. While that feeling might not do you much good in your adult life, it will do wonders for your kid.
Copyright © 2001 by Anaxos Inc.
Excerpted from Parent's Guide to the FCAT: 4th Grade Reading and 5th Grade Math, Second Edition by Cynthia Johnson Copyright © 2001 by Cynthia Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
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