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State hopes taking FCAT public will blunt the criticism

Associated Press
Published September 22, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Read the following story, then answer the question.

Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Department of Education want people to know what is on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test taken by 10th-graders. Some people have criticized the exam in recent years. Bush thinks that once people see the test questions, they will be less likely to criticize it.

Based on your reading, what does Bush most likely think is the main reason people criticize the FCAT?

A. They're afraid it is hard.

B. They don't know what's on it.

C. They don't like math.

D. They don't like Bush.

Based on the reading, the answer is B.

"Part of the ability to attack the FCAT is the mystery of it," Bush said Wednesday in announcing that the Education Department was putting last year's 10th-grade reading and math tests on the Internet so anyone could take them, see how the exam works and how they would fare.

But the real answer about why people don't like the test and whether the criticism will lessen is a bit harder. In fact, criticism of the test continued Wednesday.

"The problem with the FCAT is not its accuracy but its use as the sole organizing principle of Florida's school system," said Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, a prominent critic. "It has made our public schools no more than a preparatory course for a pass/fail exam. Parents want more than test preparation from public schools."

Students must pass the 7-year-old exam to graduate, schools are graded on the results and critics have said it doesn't leave time for a more rounded curriculum.

Bush said that's one criticism he hopes will be answered by people who look at the test. Its questions require students to do more than simply put facts in the blanks. They require them to understand concepts and think, he said.

"You'll see you can't teach to the test," Bush said. "It shows your ability to think abstractly, to comprehend."

For example:

Students are instructed to read a poem about saving spiders from drowning, called Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy.

Then they are asked questions like this: "When the speaker in the poem says, "You would haul ashore the huddled, hairy survivors,' to what is he comparing the tarantulas?"

F. Seals.

G. Sea monsters.

H. Shipwreck victims.

I. Surfers.

Bush could probably tell you the answer is H. He took the exam last week and scored in the highest range. The test doesn't allow for exact scores.

The test questions were used on last year's test but won't be used again, to prevent students from simply memorizing the answers. That's also what has taken the state so long to make the test questions public.

The Department of Education says it has wanted to release the questions all along, but it takes a couple of years to develop them - they go through a long testing process to check for bias and to measure their difficulty. Officials only now have enough questions to release old tests.

The sample FCAT can be found at

[Last modified September 22, 2005, 01:03:19]

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