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NCLB Outrages

Call For Simple Decency

We covered this story when this boy's request for exemption from the test was first reported. We're glad to see newspaper standardisto editorialists responding to the travesty this is.

The FCAT is stressful enough. Imagine taking it mere months after finding your father's dead body.

It's not a hypothetical, but a real-life example of why human decency demands flexibility--even when the all-important Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is involved.

Such decency was denied to Paul Hubers, a freshman at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach who earned A's and B's through most of his
education--until that horrific October day last year when he discovered his father hanging from a vacuum cleaner cord in the family home, dead from suicide.

Hubers' grades have since plummeted, he's in the care of a psychiatrist, and he's being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, common to war veterans.

His psychiatrist's reasonable request: Excuse Hubers from the FCAT. A fair plea. After all, his results wouldn't accurately measure how well
his school teaches its students, taking the high-pressure test would only threaten his already-fragile state and giving him a one-year pass under such extreme circumstances would hardly set a wide precedent.

Besides, skipping the FCAT would have no personal impact for Hubers until later in high school, when he would be required to pass it in
order to graduate.

Still, Atlantic High officials denied the request, saying the law allows for only a few FCAT exemptions--for new immigrants with limited
English skills and some special education students.

It's a shame, because Hubers' psychiatrist was right. Though the boy stayed home sick on test day, he was given a makeup exam. He got as far
as writing his name down before going home with complaints of nausea. He stayed home the next day vomiting.

Atlantic High, meanwhile, got what it wanted. With Hubers' name on the test, the school could count him toward its 95 percent participation
rate, necessary to avoid certain [Federal]penalties. Because his test was incomplete, though, his results wouldn't contribute to -- or bring down--the school's overall grade.

On the whole, the FCAT has proven valuable in establishing a structure of accountability for Florida's lagging educational system. But Hubers' example only feeds into valid concerns that the FCAT is being taught to the exclusion of most everything else, including common decency.

A new exemption is necessary for traumatic emergencies, which if defined properly would encompass only the rare exceptions like Hubers' and not open the floodgate on the flimsy excuses critics fear.

It's time to make room in the stringent FCAT for a little flexibility, and a fair measure of compassion.

— Editorial Board
South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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