Putting Education Reform To The Test

What Students, Teachers do During the Final Days of Class

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Shamika Jeff, posing with her younger brother, graduated from Miami Central High School on June 5, 2012. The 18-year-old says she did not go to the entire last week of school.

Florida students have already taken all the big tests. They’ve finished their homework. But some students are still in school.

So what do teachers and students do during the final days of class?

Educators throughout Florida say teaching should be going on every day students are in school.

But students say that isn’t usually what happens.

“In class I just hang out with friends and just remember all the memories that we had,” says Sophonie Pierre, a 7th grader at Plantation Middle School in Broward County.

“Our teachers they just let us enjoy it and talk.”

Graduating senior Shamika Jeff says she didn’t show up for the entire last week of school at Miami Central High School.

“There was no point in going,” she says. “Because you had already gotten your exit card and they gave you all your credits, so there was no point.”

Tangela Mitchell is a 9th grade intensive reading teacher at Miami Central High School.

“I don’t think I would have been able to pass if it wasn’t for that week.”

-Anthony Gutierrez, graduating class of 2012

She says “There should be instruction going on up until the last day.”

But she admits some teachers close out their grade books early.

Mitchell says teachers have to turn in all their student grades one day after the last day of class.

“For us to meet the deadline, some of us have closed them out,” she says. “However we would not express that to the kids because then they would think ‘What is the point?’”

But students are catching on anyway.

Seventh grader Pierre says it’s not fair that she has to go to class if teachers aren’t grading students anymore.

“We’re done with final exams,” she says. “Summer should begin already.”

Teachers like Mitchell say closing grade books early doesn’t mean teachers stop teaching.

“I will admit it takes some finagling to keep the kids motivated and instill in them that the importance of education is not just in a grade book,” she says.

She says students can watch educational films or give classroom presentations.

Mitchell says part of the problem is that students take the end-of-the-year Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams too early.

“It’s so difficult to get them to work beyond that moment, because what is the end of the year exam? It’s the end of the year,” she says.

“If we put things in place that symbolize that then it puts your educators in a place where it’s difficult to keep the kids rallied.”

Is it Time to Re-Think the School Calendar?

Some teachers say maybe school should be more like college.

You take your final exams and you’re done.

“We’ve always worked to test as late in the year as possible,” says Jamie Mongiovi with the Florida Department of Education.

She says FCAT tests can’t take place on the very last days of school because the state needs time to score the tests before students go on summer break.

Florida law requires that FCAT results are reported by June 8 of every year.

Candy Olson is chair of the Hillsborough County school board.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Anthony Gutierrez says there wasn't much class instruction during the last week of school, which allowed him to turn in make up work he needed to graduate.

She says it’s good for students to have some time to wind down at the end of the year to sign yearbooks and talk about their summer plans.

“I think it’s important for school not to be this grim death march to the end,” she says.

“We’re human beings we need to say our farewells. We need to celebrate. But I don’t think that’s an inappropriate use of school time or of taxpayer dollars.”

But the last week of school was more than a time to celebrate for senior Anthony Gutierrez.

“It was kind of hectic for me,” he says.

Gutierrez was failing math and was close to not graduating.

He used the last week to get extra help from teachers and turn in make-up work.

“I don’t think I would have been able to pass if it wasn’t for that week,” he says.


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