Putting Education Reform To The Test

FCAT Grows Up…Or Out of Control?

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is all grown up. But has it grown into a monster?

Holtsman / Flickr

The FCAT is under increasing scrutiny from parents, teachers and school boards.

That’s the question raised by a Tampa Bay Times article recounting the birth and adolescence of the FCAT:

Florida has tested students for decades, but since its inception 14 years ago the FCAT has evolved from a simple measure of student learning to an all-encompassing arbiter of student, teacher and school performance. The test factors into third-grade promotion, high school graduation, class placement, teacher pay and evaluations, even whether a school stays open.

Even though one teacher tries to downplay the FCAT to her students by calling it the F-Kitty, the story includes lots of examples of little kids experiencing insomnia and, let’s just say, intestinal distress because of test anxiety.

There’s a growing drumbeat from parents and county school board to de-emphasize the test.

The actual FCAT appears to be on its way out, replaced by new tests based on the national Common Curriculum.

But even though the names may change, the desire to test remains the same.

A sidebar story in the Times profiles Tampa lawyer John G. Brady, who failed an early precursor to the FCAT in the 1970s.

His father fought that test in court and lost, establishing the state’s right to develop high-stakes tests.

But Brady went on to have success at St. Leo University and Stetson College of Law.

The lesson, according to Brady: “I know you can’t always trust standardized tests to give an accurate picture of a student’s abilities.”




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