FCAT to include science

In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, students will now have to put their best foot forward in the science portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

A new science component of the FCAT was unveiled at a meeting of the Tallahassee Scientific Society Tuesday

Linda Oravetz, the state coordinator for the FCAT science component, revealed the basics in a brief transparency presentation.

The science portion will be given to fifth, eighth and 10th graders. Many of the questions will focus on problem solving and will consist of 50 to 60 questions. In those 50 to 60 items, there will be multiple-choice, gridded response answer boxes and open-ended short response and extended response questions. Each of the questions is grade-appropriate. Calculators, as well as periodic tables and reference sheets will be provided for eighth and 10th graders.

The process to get an FCAT science section began in 1999 when the legislature demanded that it become a part of the student assessment.

“We wanted to be sure science wasn’t lost in the shuffle,” Oravetz said.

The four components of science covered are physical and chemical science, earth and space, life and environmental and scientific thinking. Sample questions will reflect problem-solving skills and touch on subjects like the nature of matter, energy, processes of life and processes that shape the earth.

Theresa Anderson, head of the science department at Fairview Middle School said she was a bit anxious to see what the test would consist of.

“I want to see how much it will measure. In science, kids need to think freely,” she said.

The short and extended response will pose questions that deal with the application of a process and give situations for students to draw conclusions.

Several FCAT committees, including community sensitivity reviews, bias review and item content review, have screened the questions to make sure questions are universal.

Oravetz said that many of Florida’s educators were involved in this project and put forth a lot of hard work.

Students should expect to see the science portion on the FCAT as early as March 2003, Oravetz said. Scores from the science portion will be used in public school grading beginning in 2004.

Daneesha Davis can be reached at sweetspice46@aol.com