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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It is time Florida opts out of the FCAT

All throughout the land there are grassroots movements initiated by parents to have their children opt out of their states high stakes standardized tests. Could Florida be the next place where this movement gains a foothold? Nope, the FCAT is required by statute.

The problems with the FCAT are many and whatever noble purpose it may have once had, has since been perverted. What was originally designed to let schools know how kids were doing has become the end all be all of Florida’s education system. We don’t even pretend not to teach to it anymore. We have become a state where learning is not important, just drilling kids to the point where they can get a 3 or better on the FCAT is.

If kids don’t pass the FCAT they can be retained or they eventually graduate without a diploma, just a certificate of completion not worth the paper it is printed on. Schools can be taken over or closed if not enough kids pass it as well and issues like living in poverty, absentee parents and slashed school budgets don’t matter. There is no level of difficulty depending on a kid’s ability or surroundings, like our curriculum has become, it is one size fits all test and aptitude, desire and if the kid eats regularly or not, be damned.

Kids and schools aren’t the only ones being handicapped by the test; teachers and society in general are as well. Teachers will now have their evaluations based on how kids in their classes do on the test and where intuitively that sounds right when critical thinking is applied it is fraught with peril. Studies where merit pay is based on high stakes testing indicate it is the quality of kids not the quality of instruction that determines how well they do on the test. Then society is now filled with recent graduates taking remedial classes in college or unemployed because all the school system has taught them to do is to take the FCAT.

If we are serious about having a standardized test that does some good, why don’t we give the test the first week of school? That way we can see what kids need and then get it to them. Then we can give them the same test the last week to see if they got it. If they didn’t they would have to attend summer school or be held back. That would give them plenty of incentive to do well and it would make the test just a component of education which is all it was originally designed to be anyway.

Also right now the FCAT tells what the kids don’t know and passes the buck to the next year and their next set of teachers, it does nothing to help them catch up and once a kid starts falling behind they very rarely do catch up. Furthermore this would also help us see which teachers were more effective, right now the FCAT measures years of learning and holds teachers who have kids just a few months accountable.

Finally the FCAT has become big business. The state pays hundreds of millions to for profit testing companies that grade and administer the test. They have a vested interest in making sure we propagate this failed mess and have no problem hiring lobyists or making contributions to see that this happens. As do their cousins the for profit charter school companies and the for profit education management organizations. This is money, money, money not going into our schools to be used to help our children, instead it is lining the pockets of far off hedge fund operators more concerned with the bottom line than what is best for our children.

The FCAT is destroying our schools. It’s unfortunate that parents can’t opt their children out of it but it’s more unfortunate that the state doesn’t completely opt out of it too.

1 comment:

  1. *******ACLU Multi Family Complaint******

    Please send your letter of parental rights violations regarding high stakes standardized testing to:

    Nina Bishop
    3065 Windward Way
    Colorado Springs, CO 80917
    719-233-1508 Mountain Standard Time

    Please send copies of threatening school mail and denials to school activities, your contact information and your request to be included in the compalint.

    Parents unite and reclaim our voice in the education of our children and take back our schools!