10 Changes to the FSA ELA Test You Need to Know

by Nov 13, 2018Featured, Language Arts0 comments

Are you stressed about the changes to the Florida State Assessments (FSA) ELA test?  If you answered yes, I have good news for you!

When the revisions to the FSA ELA test came out in October, many teachers’ anxiety spiked. However, after analyzing the changes in the test specifications and the practice tests, I believe teachers can relax.  Although change can be hard, most of the changes at the elementary level (grades 3, 4, 5, & 6) make the test formatting more user-friendly. In my opinion, the revisions are going to improve the test.

However, students will still need practice with the new test format. If students are familiar with the question styles and test format, they will be more relaxed and do better.

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How Has the FSA ELA Test Changed?

So how has the FSA ELA test changed? After analyzing the test specifications and comparing the old and new practice tests, I found ten revisions to the test.

1 Paper-Based Testing

Teachers across Florida will be happy to hear the legislature has declared all elementary testing will be paper-based. Computer-based testing will only be done in grades 7 and up.

2. Question Order

During my analysis of the revisions made to the practice tests for grades 3 – 6, I noticed that the questions were in the order of the passages. This change was not formally announced, so I am deducing this from the practice tests.

The previous practice tests had the questions mixed up so students might answer a question on passage 2, then passage 1, etc. All of the new practice tests have the passage 1 questions in the front, then the passage 2 questions, and finally questions that ask about both passages.

3. Social Studies Topics

The test specifications noted that the Florida legislature has mandated the texts incorporate grade-level core curricula content from social studies. I don’t remember seeing that last year, although it was always noted that topics could be pulled from science and social studies. The test specifications didn’t elaborate on how this mandate will affect the test, but I am guessing that it will benefit students to be familiar with the grade level social studies topics.

4. No Open Response

For better or worse, open response questions have been removed from the paper-based testing. This change should make the tests easier to grade.

5. Editing Portion

Research states that students should learn editing and grammar within the context of reading and writing, but previous FSA editing questions were a disjointed story – separate questions that told a story if read together.

2018 test updates now have the editing written as a short story. The words and phrases to be “edited” are underlined so students can easily find them in the text.

6. Editing Question Format

In addition to the reading piece, the 2018 test revisions changed the format of the editing questions. This change is definitely a positive update, as the old format was confusing.

Instead of questions being embedded within the story, they are now pulled out as multiple-choice questions. Again, students can refer back to the written “story” for context clues, but the questions are pulled out.

Also, instead of leaving a blank in the editing questions, sentences now have an underlined word or phrase. Students have to determine if one of the three options (A, B, or C) is correct or if the underlined piece is “D correct as is.”

7. No Audio Piece

Another significant change is the removal of the audio portion of the ELA test. I feel that this is a positive change. Some of the audio portions were difficult to hear with a lot of background noise.

8. More Multimedia Questions

With the removal of the audio piece, students will no longer be asked to compare the audio to a text passage. Instead, teachers should prepare students to answer questions about photographs, illustrations, graphic organizers, etc.

9. Table Match Questions

The only new question style is called a Table Match. According to the test specifications, Table Match question styles can be used for almost any standard. I don’t believe the Table Match is difficult, but students will need practice with it. Unfortunately, the practice tests only have 1 – 2 examples of Table Match questions, so there are not many examples available.

Some of the examples have students putting story events in order to form a summary or matching character traits to different characters. Others ask students to match traits or inferences to one passage or the other or one image or another.

10. Increased Complexity

Once again, I am inferring this from changes made to the practice tests, but I believe the tests have bumped the complexity of the test questions. According to the test specifications, the FSA ELA test questions are written on three “Depth of Knowledge” levels. Level 1 and Level 3 questions each make up 10 – 20% of the test. The remaining 60 – 80% of the test questions are level 2.

What does this mean for reading instruction? My analysis of the practice tests indicated more questions at most grade levels. In addition, there was a greater number of questions with two parts (EBSR) or multiple answers (Text Select, Multiselect, and Table Match.) Teachers need to increase the use of these types of questions in their reading instruction.

Summary

Overall, the test revisions improve the formatting of the FSA ELA test. The layout and new format of the questions should make the test more manageable for students. Elimination of the audio piece I believe is another improvement. Although some students are auditory learners, the audio pieces used in the tests were not always clear for students.

FSA ELA questions styles often have multiples responses or parts. The new question style (Table Match) is not necessarily difficult, but it is new and unfamiliar. Teachers need to increase their use of complex questions in their reading instruction.

If you found this blog post helpful and would like it in a PDF format, please sign up for my weekly email list and get it for free!

Looking for Test Prep Resources?

If you have previously purchased my test prep resources for grades 3 – 6, they have been updated to reflect the revisions to the FSA ELA format. You can access the following updates by downloading the files again:

  • The Game Show, Jenga, and Reading Practice Test editing questions have been updated to match the new questions format.
  • Also, the reading practice tests include both the editing task choice reading passage and at least one Table Match question. Some of the reading comprehension questions were revised to increase their depth of knowledge complexity.
  • Idioms Go Fish was also revised to add in an advanced version of the game.

If you would like to purchase any of my test prep resources, they are available in my store.

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10 Changes to the FSA ELA Test You Need to Know
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