FSA vs. FAST: Changes could affect admissions


After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1048, plans were set in motion for schools to administer the new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking, replacing the Florida Standard Assessment after eight years. However, this move may affect students hoping to get into choice schools such as West Shore.

To become a student at the school, applicants must be selected in a lottery system, which is conducted by the district. From there, students must satisfy minimum entrance data: have a C or better average and be on grade level. Students must also send in their FAST scores, just as previous applicants used to send in their FSA scores.

“I haven’t done a breakdown because we haven’t given FAST [before],” Principal Rick Fleming said. “I’ll look at the former FSA and the FAST test and see [if it’s] harder, easier or [if there are] different criteria, but it’s pretty much on the same level. It’s just a different set of standards.”

On March 15, 2022, DeSantis spoke about the new testing at St. Pete Collegiate High School. 

“So today, we come not to praise the FSA, but to bury it,” he said. “We are here today with legislative leaders to officially eliminate the FSA from the state of Florida. Now six months ago I announced legislative proposal to replace the FSA with progress monitoring. Instead of having one major test at the very end of the year, which provided no feedback to students before the summer came, we would do progress monitoring that would monitor progress throughout the school year. It would be shorter, it would be more individualized, and it would provide good feedback for students, for teachers and for parents.”

Although DeSantis said the FAST would take up less instructional time, Darcie Brennan, a sixth-grade teacher at Freedom 7 Elementary, said the FAST has been unpopular among her students.

“I do not know one student who likes it better than the FSA,” Brennan said. “They all say that it should be called the ‘SLOW’ testing instead of the FAST testing.”

According to Brennan, the computer-based test does not fully depict her students’ potential.

“I think that students got really frustrated at the beginning of the year when they took it because it’s using end-of-year standards to test them,” she said. “Students that may have scored really high on FSA [may have] scored low on the first FAST. It was very disheartening for them to see their scores drop so much.” 

Ashton R. is a sixth-grade student in Brennan’s class who earned fives, the highest possible score, on all of his FSAs since third grade. After his experiences with the new assessment, he said he agrees with his teacher’s concerns.

“They’re using end-of-the-year standards at the beginning of the year on stuff I didn’t really know,” Ashton said. “I definitely scored lower than I did on the FSA.”

Another aspect of the current test he said he found frustrating was that it takes away from the learning environment.

“It’s kind of overwhelming having it three times a year,” Ashton said. “Even though it’s supposed to be in an hour, they give you unlimited time. Some students need more time, and it eats up more time for the rest of the students that have already finished. It’s kind of hard because you’re not exactly learning that day. You just [come] in, you test, and it gets kind of boring.”

With the increase in time spent testing, Brennan noticed her low- and mid-performing students faced the most difficulty adapting.

“Instead of just trying really hard one time at the end of the year, they’re overtesting because we’re doing it so much that they’re not giving their full potential,” Brennan said, “[whereas] my [higher-performing] students are always going to score high because they know that content regardless. ‘Testing fatigue,’ I would say, is a good way to describe it. All we do is test between district assessments and state assessments. It’s like every other week they were doing some sort of long assessment, and they’re over it.”

This drop in both motivation and performance may reduce the number of students accepted into lottery schools.

“I think the choice schools [are] still saying that they’re going to be looking at the FAST scores, and I don’t really think it’s fair this year,” Brennan said. “Especially because it’s the first year, I feel like they need to look at the full picture, [into their] i-Ready scores and their FOCUS scores. I wish that, if we’re looking at the whole student, they had teacher recommendation letters, too.”

The data from the first two testing periods reminded Fleming of the transition in the 2014-2015 school year from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) to the FSA. 

“As far as the PM (progress monitoring) data is concerned, it’s all over the map,” Fleming said. “Because when you’re progress monitoring, some students take it [seriously], and some students do not. I don’t think it’s a reliable measure yet. It may not matter in terms of your overall score at the end of the year, but it matters in developing you to get a good score at the end of the year.”

Because the third and final portion of the FAST has not yet been administered, comparing it to the FSA based on scoring will have to wait.

“You have to have a couple years of data,” Fleming said. “This is the first year we’re doing FSA PM Three, so I’m not sure how our numbers will compare to FSA.’”

Once the PM Three results become available, Fleming said he can properly take a stance on the new assessment.

“I’m anxious to see, in comparison, where we were in 2022 with FSA with what FAST 2023 looks like,” he said. “I need to see the overall scores and average composites in order to make that comparison, and I’ll be able to give a better answer after the summer.”

By Rhea Sinha