20 May 2012

The FCAT needs to take a hike!

By now you have read about so many school students failing the writing portion of the Florida FCAT test, so much that the State of Florida lowered the standards so that more students pass the writing portion of the FCAT.

Recently John Romano published a great article in the St. Petersburg Times that addresses how we Floridians should bring back meaningful education to our public schools: Time to ring the bell on FCAT. That hit the spot on public school education in Florida!

This is a list of how the FCAT destroys student achievement as well as parental involvement in your child's education and school faculty and administration in rendering effective educational services to your child:

1. The FCAT takes valuable instructional time away from teachers.

2. Too much overemphasis is placed on a school's performance.

3. Extended school years.

4. Drill and practice.

5. Increased test anxiety.

6. The Federal Government meddling in state educational matters (does No Child Left Behind ring a bell?).

7. Having your son or daughter have to graduate from high school out of state.

My page on dumping the FCAT in Florida has more details. However, please let me expand a little on the list that I just mentioned of how the FCAT destroys student achievement.

How about your county's school district continually widening and expanding the school year, all in the name of doing better on the FCAT? School districts throughout Florida kept up expanding the school year to the point that you got school year round with >no summer vacation. That's right, no summer camp for your children and no vacation for your family.

Fortunately, our legislators in Tallahassee passed a law which is codified in Section 1001.42 (4)(f) of the Florida Statutes which prohibits school districts from starting school no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day. But our legislators took things back one small step, thanks to a part of Section 1003.621 of the Florida Statutes: School districts that are designated by the State of Florida as an Academically High-Performing School District can weasel their way out of Section 1001.42 (4)(f) by starting school much earlier than the 14 days before Labor Day start. An example of one school district in the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area is the Citrus County School District, which started the 2011-2012 school year much earlier - on Monday, 8 August 2011.

Our legislators need to go back and repeal that part of Section 1003.621 of the Florida Statutes and make the school start date no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day uniform statewide, no exceptions for any of Florida's 67 school districts. Period.

How about all that intensified drill and practice all school year long for the FCAT? I got news for you parents out there: Your children come home with less - and much less - homework. You begin to ask yourself why? If you request a conference with your child's teachers this is the response you will more than likely get: We have no time to teach your child, we have to teach your child according to a set of state mandated standards - called the Sunshine State Standards - so that your child can be successful on the FCAT. If you want your child to get a real education to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, we suggest that you send your child to private school, or get on the list to be accepted into one of the fundamental schools.

How about your child coming home every night in fear, especially around FCAT time? Like the intensified drill and practice I mentioned earlier, you as a parent begin to ask yourself why my child comes home from school in fear and has a hard time getting up in the morning to get ready for school? You schedule a meeting with the school's guidance counselor, only to be referred to the school psychologist for an evaluation of your child. The result from the school psychologist: We found something that is interfering with your child's learning and we suggest that your child see a psychiatrist! You take your child to the psychiatrist, and you hear this: I am going to put your child on some medicine to help out with this severe test anxiety that your child is having.

Break out the diagnosis: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or whatever. Next, break out the prescription pad and write a prescription: Ritalin, Prozac, or whatever.

Did I mention Generalized Anxiety Disorder? What brought it on in the very first place? Well, I got your answer for you in four capital letters that caused your child to be in fear: FCAT.

How about our American National Government getting involved, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002? That law, among other things, mandates yearly testing of elementary and secondary school students or the states lose federal money.

Remember back to the nationally imposed 55 mph speed limit on Interstate 275 in Tampa/St. Petersburg as well as everywhere else in the USA? In that law's last days prior to repeal several states - defying the federal mandate - raised the speed limit on their interstate highways, particularly rural stretches of interstate highways such as Interstate 10 between El Paso and San Antonio, Texas.

No Child Left Behind also mandated another layer of testing that contributes to nothing more than drill and practice and test anxiety: The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP as it is called. What are we doing here, over testing our children to the point of a nervous breakdown here?

Finally, how about your child having to graduate from high school out of state, preferably a state that does not have mandatory testing like the FCAT in Florida? From what I have read out there, I have seen stories of parents who have sent their children to live with relatives, out of state or even out of the country so that their children are getting the education that is well deserved and getting that high school diploma as a medal of achievement for all the hard work done. After all, any parent who wants a decent education for their child will do anything to see that this all important goal is accomplished.

Like John Romano, the St. Petersburg Times staff writer who wrote the article on the FCAT as I mentioned earlier, it is time to ring the bell on the FCAT: The FCAT has no place in Florida's public schools and the FCAT needs to be sent on a one way trip to the scrap heap bin.

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