Putting Education Reform To The Test

The Problem With The FCAT Is The ‘Frenzy’

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Columnist Beth Kassab argues the FCAT isn't the problem, it's the additional "frenzy" that surrounds the test.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is a “perfectly reasonable” way to gauge students in reading, writing and math, Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab writes.

But the system breaks down because of ‘FCAT frenzy’ and the anxiety school districts create with extra drills, pep rallies and other events which ratchet up the pressure on students.

Nearly a dozen Florida school districts have approved resolutions asking Gov. Rick Scott and other state leaders put less emphasis on FCAT results. The resolution asks that students are evaluated in a number or ways, not just through standardized test.

The Florida School Boards Association is meeting in Tampa Thursday to debate a statewide resolution.

But Kassab argues the FCAT is critical to making sure Florida students can compete with those in Hong Kong or Singapore.

From her column:

It’s a tough system, but it’s also one that achieves the gold standard of conservative education philosophy: accountability.

“FCAT frenzy,” on the other hand, is counter-productive and highly inflammatory.

It’s the endless practice tests, pep rallies, T-shirts and other ways schools shine a too-intense spotlight on the test and help create the vomit-inducing anxiety displayed by kids about to be tested.

“FCAT frenzy” also describes the notion, perceived or real, that schools are spending too much time focusing on the test at the expense of other curriculum.

FCAT critics argue the tests have problems. Some want to do away with standardized tests altogether. Orlando-based Fund Education Now would replace the FCAT with one of many national standardized tests already widely used, saving the $254 million the state pays Pearson to design and administer the FCAT.

What do you think of Kassab’s argument? Can Florida keep the FCAT but eliminate the ‘Frenzy?’


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