Read any Florida newspaper or watch any local news broadcast and you will hear the buzz circulating about the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).
The FCAT began in 1998 to help improve the education system in Florida and meet requirements for the No Child Left Behind program. The purpose of the plan was “to increase student achievement by implementing higher standards”. Students in grades 3-11 take the FCAT which “consists of criterion-referenced tests (CRT) in mathematics, reading, science, and writing, which measure student progress toward meeting the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) benchmarks”.
As if the FCAT wasn’t already enough of a controversial issue, scores that are normally released before students break for summer have still not been received. However, as stated in an article from The Palm Beach Post, the latest estimate is that “scores won’t be released until the end of June”.
With student placement in advanced and remedial classes, teacher staffing and the uncertainty of knowing whether or not students will have to retake the exam all on the line, there is an understanding why so many students, teachers and parents are anxious. Those most concerned are the high school sophomores who are wondering if they passed the “high-stakes” test; since reading and math FCAT tests must be passed in order to receive a diploma.
This glitch in scores being delivered has given more fuel to the fire of those opposed to the FCAT.
Many parents, teachers and citizens of the Florida communities are fed up with the standardizing testing and the evaluation of a student to be based on such a “high-stakes” test.
But if the FCAT was to be removed, what would replace it?
The answer: End-of-course exams.
The Florida Senate passed the “new teacher-evaluation system” and it is speculated the House is going to follow. This system would begin in 2014 where all school districts would “be required to develop end-of-course exams in all subjects.”
What is the difference between the FCAT and the new system? The FCAT only tests students in a few subjects while all subjects in the new evaluation system would be required.
However, many question how school districts would create standardized testing for creative classes and if it is smart to put so much pressure on students and the education in Florida.
With elections right around the corner and many school board seats up for election, the issue of quality education and the use of standardized testing is a major issue and concern for parents, teachers and now candidates running for school board.
Are we truly educating the next generation if we are requiring our teachers to prepare students for ONE high-stakes test to judge their skill set and ability to move forward? And is it fair for a students gain in learning to be based strictly on a high-stakes test and the teacher be judged along with those scores? Is the governments answer to standardized testing really going to be more standardized testing?
Understandably, there is the need to make sure students are receiving adequate education. And if no form of standardized testing is used, it raises the question: How will schools be able to compare the education students are receiving with in school districts, counties, states and nationally? These along with other concerns are those of supporters of standardized testing.
However, maybe the resolution isn’t relying strictly on standardized testing or completely dismissing it. Maybe schools should use the testing as a guiding tool so when test scores are not being delivered on time, the schools and especially the students do not suffer the most.
Whatever the solution, I think it is safe to say the Florida school boards are going to spend a great deal of time looking to improve standardized testing and the influence it has on students, teachers and the structuring of schools.