FSA Has Merits, But Faults Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Isabel Hanewicz, RHStoday Editor-in-Chief

This afternoon, right around 12:45, I had one of those mini-almost heart attack moments, where your stomach drops and all you can think is oh my god, is this really happening?

I was sitting in the media center, about 75% done with my FSA writing essay, when, mid-sentence, the browser shut down. Just closed, without any warning or clicking on my part. I started at the screen for a second, which no longer had my essay but instead was blue with a little box saying the browser had unexpectedly stopped working, right in the middle of my standardized test.

Freaking out, I called over the proctor, who, unlike me, had clearly dealt with this before and had me go back through the login process. During the nerve-wracking minute it took me to get back to the essay screen, as I envisioned myself having to skip journalism to write the same. exact. essay. 

But, like any other computer system, the FSA is bound to have a glitch at some point, and those glitches are often a hindrance to the test takers. ”

Luckily for me, the computer saved my essay, and only a sentence was lost. Not everyone was as lucky, however, as another person in my testing block whose computer malfunctioned did indeed lose the essay and have to restart the entire test, meaning sitting through another 90-minute testing block. Not fun.

Some of these problems can probably be fixed. This is the first year the FSA is being used, after all, and nothing is perfect at first.

On the other hand, some are always going to be an issue; schools not having enough computers for all students to test at the same time, like they did with FCAT Writes, will most likely not get fixed anytime soon because there’s just not enough money in the budget.

At the end of the day, there’s something familiarly comforting about the good old pencil and paper test. As much as I love typing things- I do run the online newspaper, after all- there’s definitely some kinks in the new FSA testing program, and I can’t quite decide whether it is an improvement over the FCAT or simply a new version of the same tired test.

It is hard to say if the FSA challenges me, or other students, more than the FCAT without any sort of results or data.

Florida can’t fix its low test scores or the education system with a one set of tests; we need to realize the teaching and learning has to evolve if we really want our students to improve. The new FSA tests, despite their flaws, won’t do any new damage.

But their impact, arguably the whole point of the revamped system, will take time to measure.

What did you think of the new FSA Writing Test?

Better than the FCAT
Worse than the FCAT
They are both equally bad

Poll Maker

Take the FSA and have something to say? Fill out FLDOE’s comment form here.