FCAT Writing Test

Q: When did Florida first begin to measure a student’s ability to write?

Florida began measuring student performance in writing in 1992 on the Florida Writes exam.  Florida Writes eventually became FCAT Writing in1998.

Q: What changed on this year’s FCAT Writing test?

Since 1992, Florida’s writing test was simply an essay. Students were scored on a scale of 1 to 6 and the “rubric” or scoring system was based upon things like:  Does the student present a main idea?   Does the student use multiple arguments to present his or her main idea?  Does the student’s essay have a conclusion that restates the main idea?

Student’s essays were not scored based upon spelling, vocabulary, correct punctuation or grammar.  In other words, a student could have a very high writing score even though the essay may have been filled with misspelled words and incorrect grammar.

This year, spelling, vocabulary, punctuation and grammar are included in how the student’s essay is scored.  Additionally, scorers look at whether or not the student made logical supporting statements in their essay, not just that students made multiple supporting statements.

The new method for scoring FCAT Writing will ensure Florida’s students are better prepared for success in college or in a career.

Q: How are Florida’s writing tests scored?

Two different individuals independently read each and every student’s essay.  If the two reviewers score the student’s essay with the same score, that is the score for the student’s essay.

If the two reviewers score the student’s essay within one point of each other, the student gets an average of the two scores.  In other words, if one reviewer gives the student a 3 and the other reviewer gives the student a 4, the student will receive a score of 3.5.

If the two reviewers score the student’s essay differently, but their separate scores are more than one point different (i.e., one gives the student a 3 and the other gives the student a 5), then a third reviewer is brought in to review the student’s essay.  If the third reviewer matches one of the prior reviewer’s scores, then that is the score the student receives.  If the third reviewer scores within one point of one of the prior reviewers, the averaging process is once again used.

There are quality checkpoints all through the process of scoring student’s essays to ensure that all the individuals reviewing the scores are accurately and faithfully following the scoring guidelines.

Q:  What are the qualifications of the individuals who score the FCAT writing test?

Individuals who score the writing test must have bachelor’s degrees in a related writing field.  For example, they could have bachelor’s degrees in English, in Creative Writing, in Journalism, etc.

Approximately 20 percent of the reviewers have degrees in education. Every reviewer goes through a detailed training process on Florida’s writing test and the scoring guidelines.  These scorers must qualify to score student essays and maintain high standards to remain a scorer in good standing. And there are quality checks throughout the scoring process to ensure each student’s score is accurate.