"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, March 14, 2008

How FCAT Succeeds Where Other Social Engineering Attempts Have Failed

After 10 years of teaching the poor to recognize and accept their failure and the rightful control by others that their failure demands, Florida's corporate politicians have no doubt succeeded in padding their future supply of minimum wage workers to care for the retiring baby boomers moving South. The dropout rate is booming!

At the same time, corporate allies in Washington have used NCLB to undercut support of public education and to seed charter schools and vouchers and the cheap alternatives for these stubbornly defective children and lazy teachers who just won't help their schools make AYP. The Washington allies even put in place a phony teacher credentialing outfit to supply "teachers" in these cheap chain gangs for the poor. And Florida's corporate community stands ready to assist with big-hearted contributions that will earn dollar for dollar tax credits. Sweet!

Apparently, not everyone sees the benefits. From the Sun-Sentinel:
Take a breath. Relax.

For a day or two.

We're in the eye of the testing storm.

The squall began last week with the latest round of the FCATs. And for many, students will continue through this week with more FCAT testing and then a national test called the Norms Reference Test.

So, here we are today, smack in the middle of uncertainty and anxiety.

This is what education has become in Florida.

So many of us manipulated by an FCAT test that almost everyone agrees is faulty: Supporters say it probably needs revising, critics say it needs scrapping. And yet, this peculiar beast is entwined in the lives of thousands of children and families — most of the quarter-million kids and families who attend Broward public schools, and the 175,000 in Palm Beach County.

That's a lot of canceled baseball practices. Chores set aside. Bedtimes moved back.

If it was only those impositions and inconveniences, I might be a fan of the test.

But the FCAT also negatively affects teachers' livelihoods and kids' education. Although Broward's school board voted to de-emphasize the test, Palm Beach County took a different tack. It was all-FCAT-all-the-time.

The test even threatens successful educators and entire schools.

"We're definitely under the gun," said Rebecca Dahl, the principal at my son's middle school. "The kids know it. The teachers know it."

. . . .

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave Florida a C for "learning" in its 2006 national report card. "Florida's underperformance in educating its young population could limit the state's access to a competitive workforce and weaken its economy over time," the 2006 report said. "Since the early 1990s, Florida has seen a double-digit drop in the proportion of ninth graders graduating from high school, and the state now ranks among the lowest in the country on this measure. Of those who do graduate, relatively few go on to college."

After a decade of paying with our state treasury, with our kids' psyches and teachers' sanity, is this what we hoped to hear?

That's the very first FCAT question that needs an answer.

Ralph De La Cruz can be reached at rdelacruz@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4727 or 561-243-6522. Read his blog at Sun-Sentinel.com/ralphblog

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