Putting Education Reform To The Test

State Education Commissioner Says Anti-FCAT Resolutions Ignore Progress

Florida Department of Education

Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson

Florida education commission Gerard Robinson says a Florida School Boards Association proposal objecting to the current use of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test does a disservice to students and ignores a decade of state school improvement.

Robinson spoke to state superintendents and school board members gathered at a Tampa meeting Thursday. A Florida School Boards Association committee approved a resolution opposing the current use of the FCAT Wednesday, and the full organization could follow suit this afternoon.

Robinson said FCAT opposition ignores the reality of the workforce.

“What they’re focusing on is high-stakes testing, which is a political way of saying that ‘We just don’t like testing,'” Robinson said. “Let’s be real clear: Many of the teachers who are in our classrooms have to take tests in order to be a classroom teacher; many of our students are going to become CPAs or lawyers and they have to take exams.

“Assessments are part of being an educated citizen in our society across the board. So I respect the opportunity for them to express their opinion about that, and I’m expressing mine.”

The FCAT has also been critical to the improvement in Florida schools the past decade, Robinson said. Florida schools have risen from the bottom third in the country to number 11, according to the latest Education Week rankings.

“If you take a look at where students have performed in math, reading, writing as well and other subjects, we’ve been moving in the right direction for over a decade,” he said. “That didn’t happen overnight. That happened because we set accountability and assessments are in place.”

Robinson said school board officials have not suggested a good alternative to the FCAT. Some have suggested using the SAT, he said, but that test does not match state curriculum standards.

Lawmakers and the state board of education have repeatedly signaled their support for the FCAT, he said. The school boards association resolution may generate more heat than light.

“They can express their opinion,” he said. “But let’s also remember the local school board’s obligation is to implement the laws approved by the Florida Legislature; to implement the regulations approved by the state board.

“And if it’s an expression that’s great. It may be more symbolic than binding. But we’ll see how it goes. This is democracy and this is how it works.”


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