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An FCAT Survivor Calls for Change

Publication Date: 2003-02-25

Here's the hgih-stakes testing story of a Florida teen.

"According to her first four standardized test scores, Stephanie didn't deserve a high school diploma. No diploma, no college. The problem? Stephanie struggles with standardized tests, and Florida is one of a growing number of states that don't let kids graduate - no matter how good their grades are - if they don't pass an 'exit exam.' ... The phrase [high stakes testing] is used to define tests with stiff consequences for failing: blocking advancement to the next grade or, in Stephanie's case, graduation. Stephanie's nightmare with high-stakes testing began her sophmore year, when she took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). She failed the reading portion and had to take a remedial reading class her junior year - despite the fact that she'd just received a B in honors English. Stephanie turned into a completely different person. 'I felt like a failure,' she says. 'I didn't eat. I hardly talked to may friends. I cried myeslf to sleep.' ... 'I'd never struggled through school,' Stephanie says, but with standardized tests, 'the minute I sit down, I start sweating. And then my mind goes blank.' ... Fortunately, after investing more than $1,000 in test prep, she passed on the fifth try - by just three points. And while she's breathing a sigh of relief, Stephanie is still angry that this one test could have made such a difference in her life."

Source: "Can One Test Change Your Life?: Standardized tests are becoming the new standard," by Michele MarchettiSeventeen Magazine, March 2003, page 198.

Stephanie prepared the following piece especially for the MAHST (Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing) website--to offer the perspective of someone who has "been there."


An FCAT Survivor Calls for Change

By Stephanie

As you already know, my name is Stephanie Scribner. I am a senior this year at Satellite High school in Satellite Beach, Florida. I have been recognized as a 2003 Debutante for my academic, and community commitment. I have always been a well rounded average student making A's in B's in honors classes.

The class of 2003 is the first class that has to pass the high school level FCAT in order to receive an accredited diploma (students in grades first through eighth are retained if they do not pass their FCAT tests). If you do not pass it before you graduate you will be able to walk the graduation stage with your class but will not be awarded a high school diploma -- instead you receive a certificate of completion. A certificate of completion isn't accepted for admittance into any community college, technical school, vocational school etc. Here in Florida, if you haven't passed by graduation you have one more time during the summer to take the test and pass, and then later receive your diploma. These are just some Florida standards that vary from state to state.

I have never been a good tester, and I have test anxiety. So when it comes to taking any tests at all, whether it's just a pop quiz or a chapter test, an exam, or even a high stakes standardized test like the FCAT, I get very frustrated. I break out in a sweat, my mind goes blank, and I get very shaky. I also have a twin sister which made my FCAT experience 10 times worse, when she passed, and I didn't. I felt more pressure than I have ever felt in my life. It was a horrible experience.

I have so many thoughts about this test and how it has discouraged many students from completing school and furthering their education. Instead of looking at other things like, attendance, grades, club involvement, community involvement and so on, they are looking at this ONE test that's taken one day out of your 13 years of school and only lasts about 2 hours. They aren't considering other accomplishments that students have received. They can't give a high stakes test like this and make it the sole criterion that is "supposed" to reflect your many years through school. I don't think there is ANYONE out there who has worked so hard to make good grades, and make school a commitment who doesn't deserve a diploma. The government is taking advantage of these students and it's ridiculous.

I just hope that I can make a difference in another student's life and win this battle. I'm not necessarily saying to get rid of high stakes testing period, I'm saying they need to consider more important things and know what the student is capable of doing. One test DOESN'T tell the whole story about anyone's abilities. If there is anyone out there that is interested in knowing more about my story, or Florida's standards feel free to e-mail me . I encourage everyone to read the article in the March issue of Seventeen. It is very educating and it's good to know that there are other students out there like me that is trying to win this battle.


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