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[Susan notes: A teacher speaks her mind, and good for her.]

Published in Bradentown Herald

To the editor

FCAT: The stakes are too high

Being a third-grade teacher and having experience with teaching all grades in my 12 years, I have to respond to the ignorance and misinformation of those in Florida who have obviously never seen what the FCAT entails (such as Ms. Van Liew). Third grade is mandatory retention, and she needs to talk to some third-grade parents. I have never heard one parent agree with the stress that one week of testing can cause. Just one example: A practice item for third-grade math is, "Which of the following shapes is an example of a tessellation?"

We all agree that there needs to be accountability, but not in one high-stakes test. I want to know whether or not I have had an effective year with my students, but can that be determined with one test? What about students with learning disabilities (ADHD, dyslexia)? They are in special classes because they cannot meet the standards. "Go to school every day, pay attention in class, do your homework?" Is it that simple? Do you realize that from August to March, we teach to a test that may exclude history and science at the third-grade level since those aren't "tested?"

I spent most of the year skipping the basics, and trying to get my third-grade learning-disabled students to perform like everyone else in the state. It seems we are all meant to be cookie-cutter people with the same talents and abilities. Would it be appropriate for you to be tested once a year on detailed information about your job? If you fail it, you get fired regardless of your perfect evaluations and productivity?

You may be an older citizen who doesn't realize that the FCAT reading test is not the who, what, when, where and why anymore. It is all literary analysis (analogies, synonyms, themes, author's purpose, main idea, cause/effect, details, chronological order, etc.). You need to go to an FCAT Web site and look at a sample test and look at how poorly our subgroups perform (race, disabilities, socioeconomic, etc.). Everyone cannot be a fluent reader by third grade. Our dropout rate for eighth and ninth graders will soar because we have retained them up to two times in third grade.

The goal of the FCAT and all its ramifications is the privatization of schools, and if you don't see that coming, then I hope you are one of the few. We look at one test called the FCAT. That one test determines how my teaching is, how our principal runs the school and how "smart" our students are compared to the rest of the state and our nation. That is nothing short of nauseating and heartless.

Stephanie Parnell

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