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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Remember when we would trust and appreciate teachers?

From Florida Today, by Anthony S. Colucci

John Winn, Florida’s former education commissioner, suggested in his recent guest column, “If not FCAT, then what?” that FCAT is the only way Florida’s students will receive a top-notch education.

What Mr. Winn does not comprehend is standardized tests, such as FCAT, are the major reason Florida students are not getting a top-notch education. Since the emergence of the high-stakes testing movement, the performance of U.S. students compared with its international counterparts has declined.

Winn flippantly writes, “Too many educators thrust their own stress over accountability upon their students, adding to anxiety over school and testing.”

In Florida, the only measure of a school’s success is students’ performance on FCAT. Students’ promotion to the next grade may hinge on it, they must pass the test to graduate, teachers’ salaries are determined by it, school-wide results allow students to transfer out of a school, it determines the courses a student can take and how resources are allocated. FCAT results also determine the school start date.

FCAT is not the low-stakes standardized tests you and I took as kids. Perhaps, Mr. Winn should consider the wisdom of President Dwight Eisenhower, who said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

Research shows the high-stakes nature of these tests has drastically reduced the amount of time students spend learning social studies, science, engaging in the arts and having recess. Even the curriculum within tested subjects is narrowed to what will be tested. Finland, which has a school system that is the envy of the world, offers a rich liberal arts curriculum and does not use nationwide standardized testing.

Perhaps most important is the fact business leaders and educators agree standardized tests do not test the skills that are most needed in the world today.

In book, “The Global Achievement Gap,” author Tony Wagner presents an extensive study of what employers want from employees. Wagner cites critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination. Most of these skills are not assessed by filling in the bubbles.

Let’s also not ignore the white paper, “The Ramifications of Standardized Testing on our Public Schools,” that recently was released by the Central Florida School Board Coalition. The paper reports Florida’s standardized testing program is being misused and has severely affected students’ learning.

I am sure taxpayers would like to know Houghton Mifflin Harcourt estimates the annual cost of its testing at $424,000, with Pearson estimating the annual cost of its tests at $59 million. These figures exclude costs related to equipment, printing and school staff hours of prep, testing, scoring and reporting.

The best option after ending FCAT is to trust the professional judgment of educators to evaluate students. It is our job and it is our passion.

Colucci is a National Board-Certified Teacher, author of the book, “Copilots, Duties, and Piña Coladas: How to Be a Great Teacher,” and numerous articles published in Teacher Magazine. He lives in Titusville.

1 comment:

  1. My wife, a 26 yr. veteran Elementary teacher, agrees. All the character building, relationships and trust, all the smallest joys are gone. FCAT and micromanagement have destroyed any incentive to be a teacher.