Learn More: Third Grade Reading

What does this mean?

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is an exam given to all Florida public school students in Grades 3 through 11 from 1998 through 2014. The purpose of the exam is to measure at what level public school students are performing in reading, writing, mathematics, and science. It is standardized so that students across the state can be measured against each other and to determine how well students are mastering basic skills.

In third grade, students are tested for the first time in reading. The results of the FCAT are classified into five achievement levels. Level 5 is the highest and Level 1 is the lowest. This score is important to understand since students who receive a Level 1 score must repeat the 3rd Grade. However, children who score in Level 1 are given the opportunity to take an approved alternate test or be graded "good cause exemption."

During the 2010-11 school year, Florida began the transition from the FCAT to the FCAT 2.0 and Florida End-of-Course (EOC) Assessments. Selected grades and subjects participated in FCAT assessments until the final transition was complete. Beginning in spring 2015, the Florida Standards Assessments will be administered.

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Why is it important?

The FCAT 3rd Grade Reading Scores are important because they give information on how well Florida public elementary school students are reading. Research shows that children who learn to read well when they are young are far more successful in school throughout their lifetime. Children who fall behind in reading often have a very difficult time in school (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). Additionally, the promotion of students from the 3rd to 4th grade is partly based on the results of this exam. The National Association of School Psychologists has said that children who are held back in elementary grades often develop emotional and behavioral problems, and are at greater risk of dropping out of school. Although some criticism exists regarding the FCAT (and standardized testing in general), it is currently the only uniform method to compare the performance of students statewide.

How are the data collected (methods)?

The FCAT test is given yearly (typically in the spring) to all public school students in Grades 3 through 11. These tests are scored with a combination of electronic scoring (using computer programs) and hand scoring (using trained scorers). These scores are then used to determine the percent of 3rd Grade students in each school reading at Levels 1- 5.

Caveats and Limitations

  • Although the FCAT scores are presented for schools within a particular geographic boundary (neighborhood, community, municipality, county), not all of the students who attend the school come from the neighborhood or community where the school is located. Hillsborough County has a "School Choice" program that allows parents to place their children in public schools that have available space. Additionally, parents can place their children in Charter and Magnet schools within the county. Therefore, do not interpret the school grade as a direct reflection of the achievement of students living in the same neighborhood or community as the school.
  • School scores from year to year are not always directly comparable. For example, in the 2004-05 school year, students with disabilities were included in the learn gains component of the school grade calculation. They had been previously excluded. Therefore, schools with higher percentages of students with disabilities might have seen an effect on their grades.
  • Students who receive reading scores in Level 1 (the lowest) are not automatically held back from advancing to third grade. They are given the opportunity to take an approved alternate test or be graded "good cause exemption."

Frequently Asked Questions

Please view the Florida Department of Education's Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website. literature on the FCAT.

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