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Published in Palm Beach Post

To the editor

We teachers in the public school system have been watching with great interest the debate on how the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test will be administered and used this hurricane year ("School board member urges tough stand on FCAT," Sept. 23). The original intent of the FCAT was to evaluate students to identify needs and measure progress. With the Florida A+ Plan and the nation's No Child Left Behind Act, that purpose has changed, as has the impact of this testing program. Now, in addition to student evaluation, the FCAT purports to evaluate schools, ignoring differences of socioeconomic and other demographic factors between schools. Financial support is predicated on those imperfect school ratings. The stakes could not be higher.

With the quadruple blow (so far) of the hurricane season, this school year has been severely damaged. Comparisons of this year's FCAT scores with those of last year are, therefore, invalid. That comparison, however, is to be used for the rating of schools, the determination of "F-rated schools" and the granting of vouchers for students to take public school money to private schools. The decision to proceed as if all has been normal was made by state officials in spite of the pleas of a consortium of superintendents of schools throughout the state to postpone such evaluations for this year. Worse, Gov. Bush is demanding that the "pass" score rise this year in at least one of the tested skill areas.

In addition, the FCAT is advertised as a method to improve the quality of education in the public school system (private, parochial and home-school students are not tested with the FCAT). The irony is that the diagnostic FCAT tool, designed in this district, was flawed. Teachers who administered the FCAT diagnostic test recently in Palm Beach County found it to be replete with errors. One most egregious error provided four possible answer choices, W, X, Y and Z, on a math question in the test. The answer sheet had only choices A, B, C and D. No correct match was possible.

Editor's note: Geoffrey Kashdan is a teacher at Eagles Landing Middle School in Boca Raton.

Geoffrey Kashdan

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