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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Florida's education bureaucracy, not classroom teachers, are accountable for the FCAT mess.

From the's editorial board

"Role of student testing under fire."

That was the headline on our front page the other day.

The story under it told how school boards in Lee and Collier counties are joining colleagues and educators around the country who are paying more attention than ever to standardized testing and how results are used.

In Florida, the big standardized test is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), whose results are used to assign letter grades to schools and entire school systems and help determine funding.

Results also can impact teachers' and administrators' careers.

Testing is a part of our everyday lives. All of us are tested in one way or another. But testing in public schools invites a special level of debate, because there are so many variables and the stakes are so high for students and their families — and educators and their families.

A hospital is not sized up for an entire year by a single snapshot or day's job performance.

A factory is not judged by that standard.

Neither is a plumber or contractor.

Neither is a newspaper.

Thank goodness. Some days are better than others. There are a lot of moving parts.

And sometimes it is not valid to compare one year's performance with another's, yet that is what we do with schools — even though clients change from year to year and sometimes are less than fluent in the language of the test.

The timing of this peak interest in the future of testing comes as we are concluding the FCAT does not work — just as it is about to be replaced by a national test.

Granted, there were flashes of hope, as when low-scoring schools would rally and students would hold celebrations.

There have been too many mistakes made by its administrators. Last but not least is the folly of scores on some writing exams being so low — due to misunderstandings about what teachers were to emphasize? — that grading had to be dumbed down.

This is all about accountability — though not the kind the FCAT sought to assign.

Florida's education bureaucracy, not classroom teachers, are accountable for the mess.

How many years have our taxes and time been misdirected? Fourteen.

Plus, we have this unpleasant question: What assurance do we have that the next big test, FCAT's replacement, will be any better?

We need to get smarter.

We can start by asking how much weight should be assigned to standardized tests and what other measures should be taken into account. Should graduation rates and college admissions get factored in?

How do other countries, which may be better at teaching and learning than us, measure the product? Let's find out, because we should be aiming high rather than groping for minimums.

Education is a behemoth that is slow to change. Perhaps, though, the time is right to find what has been elusive — a report card that shows how schools are passing or failing assignments that the community believes are important, and where we go from there.

1 comment:

  1. You are reading my thoughts:) Thanks for the post!