Putting Education Reform To The Test

FCAT Writing Results Show ‘Teaching To The Test’ Could Be A Good Thing

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Students misspell words during a spelling test. 5. Adventure. 6. Mystery. 7. Skunk

When students started being graded on spelling, grammar and vocabulary this year, most students failed the state’s standardized writing exam.

The Florida Board of Education lowered the passing score during an emergency meeting so more students would pass.

But a veteran English teacher in Florida says this is a sign students aren’t being taught the basics.

Joanne Miles teaches advanced placement English at Nova High School in Davie.

She’s been in the classroom for 31 years and says teachers mostly focus on teaching subjects the FCAT tests.

“They do focus on what the tests will require, and if the tests are not going to require grammar and spelling, then why put the time in teaching it?”

She says teaching subjects like grammar has gone by the wayside.

“The reason that schools were called grammar schools back in the day was because that was when you started learning your grammar,” she said.

“Since the FCAT writing has never tested for that or cared about it, we’ve seen that teachers just haven’t taught it.”

And that hurts students when they graduate high school, she says, because many have to take remedial English classes in college before they can start actual college courses.

How Scores Compare to Last Year

Below are the percentages of students who earned a passing score of 4.0 or higher on the writing portion of the FCAT this year, compared to the year before when students were not graded on spelling, vocabulary, grammar or punctuation.

  • 4th grade: 27% in 2012 – 81% in 2011
  • 8the grade: 33% in 2012 – 82% in 2011
  • 10th grade: 38% in 2012 – 80% in 2011

Florida’s education commissioner, Gerard Robinson, gave schools a break this year but says the tougher scoring standards will be back next year.

Miles argues students will need more time to learn the subjects many Florida teachers stopped teaching a long time ago.


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