Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More school boards push back against the FCAT, Duval still silent

From the Herald Tribune, by Christopher O'Donnell

Sarasota County school students have always been at the head of the class when it comes to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, beating most other Florida school districts.

And yet, Sarasota School Board members still say the test results are a poor way to evaluate teachers and decide if students can advance or graduate.

School Board members moved Tuesday toward adopting a resolution — one approved last week by the Florida School Board Association — that calls for the FCAT to be scaled back and for an independent state review of its reliability.

The Manatee County School Board is scheduled to vote on a similar measure at a meeting Monday.

The two-page resolution being considered by both boards blames the test for a litany of education woes, saying that it kills children's love of learning, encourages "teaching-to-the-test" instruction, and is a poor measure of how well teachers are performing.

"We're not saying we want to do away with the FCAT," said Board Member Shirley Brown. "We're saying we want to re-evaluate it and look at what we're teaching."

Gov. Jeb Bush implemented the FCAT in 1998 to increase accountability, give parents a way to judge how their child's school is performing, and to help identify schools or individual groups of students who may need help. Schools are graded based on the results, and those that earn an A or improve a certain amount receive bonus money.

But over the years, lawmakers and the State Board of Education have raised the stakes of the test.

This year, third- and 10th-grade students needed to score higher to move to fourth grade or graduate. Test scores will affect teacher and principal evaluations this year, and by 2014 will also affect teacher merit bonuses.

And at the direction of Gov. Rick Scott, the state this year ranked school districts and schools based on 2011 results.

With such high stakes, few dispute that the test has become the focus of the whole school year — leading critics to say it is warping education.

"There is a growing body of opinion that what we are doing with standardized testing is dumbing down education," said Board Member Carol Todd, who asked if the district should consider not giving the tests.

Other board members said they are not prepared to take that step, which would put them in violation of state law.

Board Member Frank Kovach said the FCAT still has value.

"I think you can find out if a kid is learning things with standardized tests," said Kovach. "I agree there are a lot of issues with the FCAT, but we don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water."

No comments:

Post a Comment