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FCAT Doesn't Serve Students--or Parents

Frederica Wilson, a longtime member of the Florida Legislature, and now in the House of Representatives--and a longtime foe of high stakes testing. How many other politicos have carefully examined the tests? How many other politicos have listened to the anguish of students, parents, and teachers--and spoken out against what Rep Wilson calls this "madness?"

As usual, this op en provoked extremely ugly comments about teachers.

Here's an update: FCAT writing: Students will have 1 hour instead of 45 minutes to write essays

blog by Gerard Robinson & Leslie Postal

Students taking the FCAT writing exam next year will have an hour to write their essays instead of the usual 45 minutes, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson has decided.

The 15-minute increase was recommended by an FCAT writing advisory panel after this yearâs surprisingly low writing scores.

The state toughened the grading for the essays this year, putting more focus on spelling, grammar and other writing conventions.

But students were still told the essay would be viewed as a âdraft.â Some educators said 45 minutes might not allow students time to go back over what theyâd written, checking for and
fixing errors.

Question: Do these people know what a draft is?

I wrote for a living for twenty years. If anyone told me to "write on command," I'd immediately freeze up. . . and certainly wouldn't get myself out of it in an hour.

fixing errors.

by U. S. Representative Frederica S. Wilson

As a former school principal I believe in accountability, but it must be
transparent. As we digest the release of school grades from the Florida
Department of Education, I want to say one thing --- this is madness.

For 14 years I have fought against the FCAT. As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs? How
ridiculous. This is nothing but hoodwinking parents and the community by
putting grades on a school. No other state in America deceives their
communities by devising formulas that no person or school can decipher.
For far too long students have been treated as experiments in petri
dishes, and life-altering decisions have been made with a callous
disregard for children's futures.

Unfortunately, I can think of no better example than the recent
administration of the FCAT writing test.

The FCAT is obviously not "performance-based testing." It has become an
instrument through which administrators unilaterally deem children as
passing or failing. This seriously jeopardizes the development of our
students. I'm also waiting to see what impact this has on our state's
teachers. To connect their salaries to test scores is simply wrong.
Fifth grade teachers are held accountable for the kindergarten through
fourth grade teachers' performances.

Whatever happened to pre-test and post-test? Are doctors' salaries
connected to how many patients they cure? Parts of the FCAT are
administered on the computer. This is discriminatorily unfair to
children who are victims of the digital divide. It is very difficult for
any teacher to single-handedly level this playing field.

Tallahassee has changed the administration and scoring guidelines of the
FCAT every single year.

- One year they include the scores of special needs students, the next
year they don't.

- One year they take into consideration the socioeconomic status of a
child, the next year they don't.

- ESOL is a factor today, and next year it isn't.

When I served in the Florida Senate I demanded to see every version of
the FCAT administered to third graders that year. There were 30. I spent
an entire day ranking them in the order of their difficulty, and by
dinner I had examined tests that ranged from one a first grader could
pass all the way to one I don't think a high school freshman could pass.
I immediately demanded to know who decides which schools get which test.
Nobody on the premises knew, and to this day I have never received an

After years of complaining and pointing out missteps, and at times
borderline criminal activity, I have reached the conclusion that the
FCAT continues because it is a cash cow for adults who care absolutely
nothing about our children.

I love children so much that to stand by any longer would betray who I
am at my core. It's time for parents, teachers and those of us who care
to stand up and speak out against the injustices of the FCAT as if the
lives of our children depend upon it --- because they do. I tried to
order an audit of the FCAT in Congress, but it is out of my federal
jurisdiction. I call on Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators to demand
that Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government
Accountability begin a forensic study of the FCAT now. There is too much
at stake.

Every time a young black male commits murder in Miami, or even at times
a lesser crime, I check their school records to see if they have a
diploma. Most of them are casualties of the FCAT. I call them the FCAT
kids. Whatever happened to career and vocational education?

Not everyone is going to college, period. But everyone needs a key to
the next level of education. For goodness sakes, let's stop this FCAT
madness and allow these children to enjoy the music, arts, and sports
that we enjoyed in school.

Teach them a trade; teach them life skills. Teach them how to write a
check, save money, balance a check book, and manage a budget. If we are
ever going to dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline and close the
achievement gap in Florida, it is time that we as a state take back our
children's education from the hands of the FCAT. It is time to teach,
teach, teach --- not test, test, test.

U.S. Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat, represents Florida's 17th District, which includes parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

— Frederica Wilson
Miami Herald





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