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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why doesn’t Florida have a test that helps kids?

The leaders in Tallahassee love high stakes standardized tests. They love it so much they built the accountability system around the biggest one of all, the FCAT. But do you know whom the FCAT helps improve? Nobody!

Think about this. If a kid takes the FCAT in late March and it says he or she is bad at this or that do you know when the kid may and I repeat may, get remedial help? Not until at least the next school year when they will be expected to also master the next level of standards. The FCAT all but assures if a kid is behind they fall more so.

If we are so bound and determined to have standardized tests why don’t we have one at the beginning of the year to see what a kid needs, and one at the end of the year to see if the kid got it and this would eliminate some kids Christmas treeing of the test too because if a kid performed below a certain level, instead of failing them which is happens at least in third grade now, they would have the option to to go to summer school or fail. I know if a test determined whether I got six weeks off or if I got six more weeks of school I would take it seriously. Furthermore this would better gauge a teacher’s effectiveness. Right now teachers are often held accountable for things that happened or didn’t happen before they even met their students.

The system we have now only punishes, why don’t we have a system that helps instead?

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher    


  1. Chris
    I agree with one caveat -- the schools need to find a way to help kids over the summer
    a somewhat novel idea - have the kids start with a new teacher in May -- just after the exams - have the teacher set the stage for summer learning and a great school year -- and then measure the growth from when they got a child to when the child was tested - -this would address the problem with many students -- where there is a huge summer loss

  2. These tests expect every child to perform on the same level without considering their I.Q., family situations, test anxiety and learning disabilities. If these students do not do well, it is the teacher's fault. And what do these tests do to the self esteem of these children? These politicians should be made to take these tests and have their grades published and then have their job performance graded. Then we would see how many would remain in office.

  3. If summer school were REQUIRED, we'd see positive changes (and also probably more drop-outs).
    In my state summer school is not required, though some schools have very very short sessions, with no required attendance. Parents of the children who most need to attend summer school often choose not to send their kids due to transportation, kid summer jobs, family vacation trips, or philosophical opposition. Attendance is sketchy. If schools WERE somehow able to require summer school, schools would need extra funding for bussing, teacher salaries, materials. Summer session would certainly raise the level of investment for kids in classes all year though. Other problem is that no matter what these days, child advances to next grade either way. Most schools (note: this is not up to teachers!) have social promotion because this is what parents want. (Neither parents nor research support retention).

  4. Dear Chris,

    Real teachers call what you're asking for "authentic assessments" which help gauge student progress...As an Art teacher I do this with lessons and see the results immediately.

    So could everyone else if they learned how.

    We also use something called KWL..which informs us just what material needs to be covered based on what kids already know. When people in charge of teachers separate assessment---real assessments, not contrived, over designed, multiple choice, or-whatever-Pearson-prescribes-- from teaching, teachers begin making choices to either work ten times harder to do what's right or redefine themselves and teach to the test.

    Caution: if you choose the former, the kids will learn because you took the time to find out what they need to learn, but you'll be in constant anxiety outside your classroom. If you choose the latter, you'll burn yourself out and the kids may learn, but every step will be difficult because the people who design these tests aren't educators, don't know Piaget from the holes in their heads, and fuel the whole process with the numbers you send them.
    I wish teachers had an opt-out clause.

    Your article is wonderful, and applaud you wholeheartedly.

    A teacher friend.

  5. I agree. I run a DJJ school and we test students at entry and exit. We are obligated to do all the state testing too which just frustrates kids that are already performing several grade levels behind their peers. At least with our own entrance and exit testing we can target what to help students with and see their growth during their 4-9 month commitment.

  6. We do send our kids to summer school that failed the 3rd grade FCAT. If they pass it then, they move on.

  7. Imagine a half circle with the rainbow part on the top and the ends on the ground. Any scientific procedure done with guinea pigs knows you can say -something- about the ends on the ground- the wings of the curve. But for the vast group in the middle you can say pretty much nothing. This is so hard for teachers to grasp. A procedure that is 400 has an error so between 380 and 420 IS THE SAME NUMBER. Next teach the guinea pigs to slice onions. Then give them a standardized test on that. The wings(points on the ground) may correlate well and one group is good onion slicers and one group unable to do it. But for the vast group in the middle the test score cannot show you if the guinea pig can slice onions- or not. The real world cannot be measured by this procedure. One individual guinea pig with the exception of the 10% total on the ends cannot gauge their onion slicing ability on a test. it can't be done. They are too wide ranging. Tests like Common Core with red herrings for third graders sound to my ear like intelligence gatherers testing. Sure enough who has probably reworked their 'tests' for the military for grade school kids? Have they even met a third grader? Defense contractors. Rand corporation.