11 May 2009

Failed the Florida FCAT Test? You have options!

In the next few weeks high school graduation will be around the corner for those of you who have children graduating from high school. After all, your child went through four years of hard coursework in order to earn those good grades (and the credits that go with these grades) and both you and your child should be proud of the four years of great accomplishment.

Unfortunately, high school seniors that are on track to graduation with the good grades and everything else have one major hurdle to cross, and that is the Florida FCAT test. Florida is one of those states that do not reward highest student achievement through academics; high school students can excel academically but cannot pass the FCAT test for some reason.

The bad news for those high school students who excel academically yet failed every sitting of the FCAT test since 10th Grade receive recognition for their work at graduation. Unfortunately, that recognition is nothing more than a Certificate of Completion from your child’s high school; a Certificate of Completion is not a High School Diploma which can make the difference when your child goes into the world outside of high school.

If you are the parent of a high school senior and you receive notice from your school that your child is going to get a Certificate of Completion due to failing the last FCAT test, do not be disappointed. Instead you and your child have options to get that coveted piece of paper that your child worked very hard for the past four years.

One increasingly popular option is to transfer your child’s high school credits to a private high school out of state. There is a private high school located in Lewiston, Maine which is called North Atlantic Regional Schools, abbreviated NARS for short. It’s mostly targeted towards homeschoolers, but they know how it feels for your child who excels academically in the four year public high school setting yet cannot graduate because of a state mandated test such as the FCAT. NARS has a wonderful website where you can learn more about pursuing this valuable option for your child.

A side note: If you pursue the NARS (or any other private high school) route, always obtain a copy of your child’s high school transcript. You can get this from your child’s high school for a nominal fee; the copy you will get will more than likely be an unofficial copy which is great for review by you and your child. The official version is the one that your school will send directly to which private school you select, even it it’s NARS in Maine.

Another option is to take the tests of General Educational Development, commonly known as the GED test. While the GED test is an equivalent of a High School Diploma, according to the NARS website a GED diploma can raise red flags for your child post-high school: It could mean to a potential college or employer that there were significant problems in high school; it could also send a red flag that your child was in a treatment center or detention facility. While a GED diploma is an easy way out it brings along significant social stigma that goes with having a GED diploma. This is why a High School Diploma is a lot better because it carries a lot of prestige for your child.

If your child’s high school guidance counselor even suggests that your child who excels academically take the GED all because of a failed FCAT through the 12th Grade, think again. Do your research and check out the NARS website.

Another option would be to see if your child can use his or her SAT or ACT test scores, especially if your child took the SAT or ACT tests for college admission earlier in the school year. If your child has equivalent scores on the SAT or ACT – which the Florida Department of Education calls Concordant Scores – your child can still graduate from high school with a High School Diploma using the passing SAT or ACT scores your child earned. But there is one catch: In order to use this option your child must have failed every opportunity for the FCAT test between the 10th Grade and graduation. However, there is a brighter side: Think of your child’s passing SAT or ACT scores as an insurance policy against a non-received High School Diploma due to a failed FCAT.

I also encourage you to please read my topic on why Florida should abolish the FCAT test altogether over at my website. After all, FCAT is nothing more than a time waster for Florida’s high schools, and teachers can have more time teaching the subjects they were qualified to teach. Students would also get a quality education that you and I as taxpayers in the great State of Florida pay for, not have to go to school to study for a state mandated test. Besides, the FCAT breeds nothing more than increased test anxiety in our students, among other things.

And you know what drives the FCAT in Florida? A federal law enacted in 2002 called the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states that want to receive federal education monies to have a statewide student assessment test in place. This is much like the days when states had to have speed limits at 55 mph or lose interstate highway money.

On the Florida level, I am all for total abolition of the FCAT test and to have it replaced by meaningful end of course exams which demonstrate mastery of the subject involved, such as English Composition or Algebra. Further, on the federal level I am for the substantial – if not complete – repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 as that federal law infringes on states’ rights. After all, education of our children is and should continue to be the responsibility of the states rather than the federal government telling the states what to do as far as education is concerned.


online ged diploma said...

A very interesting article really enjoy reading it.

SEO SEM Raleigh said...

Is Florida more concerned with real "academics" or just passing the FCAT Test? I creates a temptation to teach the test and not truly educate the student.

It's sad, but creative, that transferring credits to an out of state private school. That's truly thinking "outside the box".

Edward Ringwald said...

HS Transcript Guy, very interesting comment and to the point.

Unfortunately, our State of Florida is no longer concerned with real academics as far as the public schools are concerned. In fact, our newly elected 45th Governor, Rick Scott, signed landmark legislation that ties elementary and secondary teaching to test performance. What does this mean? A meaningful education no longer exists in Florida's public schools - instead, public elementary and secondary education in Florida is nothing more than drill and practice for the FCAT test.

I got a topic over at my website which deals with abolition of the FCAT once and for all: http://www.edwardringwald.com/DumpTheFCAT.htm - after all, the federal government is messing around with states' rights as far as the No Child Left Behind Act is concerned. Besides, the No Child Left Behind Act mandates testing such as the FCAT in Florida among other things.

I'm glad you enjoyed my blog entry on what to do if your child failed the Florida FCAT test.