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.

12 May 2012

Drawbridges of the Pinellas Beaches to get a new web home soon!

UPDATE: The Drawbridges of the Pinellas Beaches is now at its new home, DrawbridgeAhead.com! To get there, simply click here or enter http://www.drawbridgeahead.com into your web browser's address bar. If you have bookmarks or links to my Pinellas Drawbridges pages over at EdwardRingwald.com, be sure to update your bookmarks and/or links!

For those of you that enjoy my Drawbridges of the Pinellas Beaches feature here at EdwardRingwald.com, I got better news for you! Soon I will be moving the content of that feature to a domain name of its own which I feel is well deserved: DrawbridgeAhead.com. Right now DrawbridgeAhead.com points to the Drawbridges of the Pinellas Beaches feature at EdwardRingwald.com. As soon as I work out all the technical odds and ends when it comes to web design (particularly designing this website), I will update the DNS records to have the DrawbridgeAhead.com domain point at the new site rather than pointing to a specific page at EdwardRingwald.com.

For those of you that don't know what DNS is, it stands for Domain Name Server. In the context of a domain name, each domain name out there on the Internet has an underlying IP (Internet Protocol) address plus the addresses of two servers that hold the domain name called domain servers. There's a great article at How Stuff Works that shows how a domain name works, and based on the article I'll show you how DrawbridgeAhead.com works as it is set up.

We'll use DrawbridgeAhead.com as an example while it points to the Drawbridges of the Pinellas Beaches at EdwardRingwald.com. When you type the DrawbridgeAhead.com domain name into your browser you actually contact the DNS server of the Internet Service Provider you are using at the moment, whether it may be at home, work, hotel, airport, coffee shop, or whatever, for directions to DrawbridgeAhead.com. The ISP's DNS server looks the domain name up and most of the time it's in there; if not the DNS server will contact another DNS server to find out.

Now that DrawbridgeAhead.com is in a DNS server, and it points to the IP address of, which is hosted at GoDaddy as a parked domain name that forwards to a specific page over at EdwardRingwald.com. There are two server addresses - called domain servers - that resolve DrawbridgeAhead.com to Once at GoDaddy, the DrawbridgeAhead.com domain name further resolves to a specific page over at EdwardRingwald.com, and that page is the Drawbridges of the Pinellas Beaches page.

Hopefully I didn't bore you with all this technical stuff but I tried to present it in layman's terms as much as possible. As for the new DrawbridgeAhead.com web site, I have been working on it feverishly for quite some time. If you also notice, I have used a different web design product called CoffeeCup HTML Editor. It's a great web design program for a fraction of the cost (around $49) compared to the major web design programs out there that feature robust WYSIWYG in coding the HTML and previewing your site, but the downside is the major financial outlay (for instance, Adobe DreamWeaver costs $399 for a new version as opposed to $139 for the upgrade version per Adobe's web site).

Now you're wondering why I did not use Microsoft FrontPage 2003 like I would have done with my websites. Unfortunately, Microsoft decided to end support for their FrontPage line of web design software, replacing it with Expression Web. Moreover, more and more web hosting providers are ending support for FrontPage Server Extensions - the little plugins that enable certain features of a web page designed in FrontPage to work such as hit counters and page updates. That's why I decided to go with CoffeeCup HTML Editor 2010 SE; I took a template (HTML Editor 2010 SE comes with several built-in templates; CoffeeCup has a great library of templates for very little cost) and I purchased a template that would work with the new DrawbridgeAhead.com website.

After so many weeks of HTML coding, I have uploaded the web site to what will be the future home of DrawbridgeAhead.com as soon as I update the DNS information. Right now the site is in a beta format which means some features may or may not work at the moment but I am making the corrections as I go along. If you would like to take a preview of the new DrawbridgeAhead.com website you can enter this IP address into your browser address bar - - or you can click on the IP address link to go there.

As I mentioned previously, as soon as I work out the technical web design features I will switch the DNS information for DrawbridgeAhead.com over to the new website. In the meantime, feel free to check out the new DrawbridgeAhead.com and let me know what you think!