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NCLB Outrages

St. Lucie County schools adding tests in attempt to raise FCAT scores

Ohanian Comment: AGHHHHHHH.

The Feds can insist that this isn't their doing, and, in legalistic terms they're right. But spiritually, the 9-week testing cycle is the logical outcome of NCLB.

By Margot Susca

Vowing to move the district from the bottom to the top of the state's achievement list, the St. Lucie County School District is using FCAT-like tests every nine weeks this year to gauge student preparedness for the tests.

District testing officials say the effort will have two positive benefits ensuring students are learning the material demanded by the state's testing standards. And it only makes sense that as part of the process, the tests be part of the grading system, they add.

"We want to ensure that students are actually learning what is required by state law," Testing Director Owen Roberts said. "(Using five years of test data) tells me something is amiss here with what is going on."

As an example, the state says in science a sixth-grader should know the difference between physical and chemical change and that molecular motion increases from solids to liquids to gases. If students fail to understand those topics or others, it wouldn't have shown up until FCAT testing in March, Roberts said.

The new tests will change that, providing teachers with more specific information more quickly, pointing to where students need help.

But at least one parent is unhappy test-driven curricula is becoming so important these new nine-week tests will be a permanent part of student transcripts.

Joanne Valzone says she doesn't think her daughter's high school grade or any other child's should be affected because school officials are falling prey to the standards-based curriculum.

"All these years our children weren't being taught the Sunshine State Standards?" Valzone said. "Now the county wants to take over a percentage of their grade. If they cared about the student, they wouldn't be messing around with their GPA."

This move gives too much power to FCAT and could hurt students' chances at attending college, said Valzone, whose 14-year-old is a freshman at Fort Pierce Central.

In middle and high school, the nine-week tests will account for 10 percent of the first quarter grade and at the end of the semester will become one-fifth of a student's grade in reading, math or science.

Students in grades three through 10 take the FCAT reading and math sections. Grades five, eight and 11 also take a science exam.

In elementary school, the tests will account for one-fifth of the year's grade.

"This is in their best interest," Roberts said. "Parents have to understand if no one monitors progress then we are going to be exactly where we are."

Where they are is 44th of 67 school districts in the state and Schools Superintendent Michael Lannon has pledged to boost that to at least 13th by 2008.

- margot.susca@scripps.com

— Margot Susca
Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers


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