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Tips on FCAT offered from school leaders

MANATEE — As the second round of the FCAT testing approaches, state and local school officials are handing out last-minute tips to further prepare students for the statewide test.

To give children an idea of what to expect, Florida Department of Education officials have posted some retired tests from past years on its Web site.

“We’re recommending parents print them out so their child can practice for the test,” said Sheila Halpin, the district’s parental involvement, family literacy and compliance coordinator.

“It builds their endurance and helps take the fear out of something some of them may have not seen before.”

The next round of the FCAT, set for March 9-19, covers math, reading and science for grades third through 11th. The first set of testing took place last month and covered writing.

Tests on the Web site were previously taken by students, but are no longer being used and include the test questions and the test answers, according to FDOE.

Parents and students also can review the test length and difficulty of the questions.

“I met with a parent today and told her that the standardized test is an assessment to see if we are teaching the Sunshine State Standards to mastery,” Halpin said Tuesday.

“We don’t want a child to have anxiety taking this, so if we taught what we were supposed to be teaching then our students should be doing well on the test.”

But parents, she said, play an extremely important role in making sure their children have a positive attitude and by giving them strategies.

In the hours before the tests, parents should make sure their children get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast, said Louis Robison, district executive director of school improvement and accountability.

The more relaxed they are, Robison said, the better they will do,

Eleventh and 12th graders who need to retake the FCAT can do so March 23-24.

The state began grading schools in 1999 in an effort to raise student performance.

In the past, schools have been assigned a letter grade, A through F, based on exam scores. But this year, the FCAT counts for only half of the school grade.

The other 50 percent consists of factors such as graduation rates and students’ participation and performance in advanced courses.

Parents with additional questions can call the district’s Parent Information Center, the state’s Parent Information Center or visit the state of Florida’s two Parent Information Web sites.

Natalie Neysa Alund, legal affairs reporter, can be reached at 745-7095.