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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FCAT Three Times a Year

The testing hysteria has reached a high pitch in Florida, where even the best school systems are falling prey to the ticking performance targets that each year blow up more public schools there. Now the insistence on a year's worth of growth has led the testing geniuses in the land of Disney to administer the disruptive, time-consuming FCAT not once, or twice, but three times during the year. From the Orlando Sentinel:
New state requirements that Florida school districts test hundreds of thousands of students this fall to develop a baseline for academic improvement is a huge, costly, time consuming exercise, Seminole school district officials complain.
Under the state’s new differentiated accountability system, the state wants school districts to show that schools are doing better by year’s ended. Targeted are schools that did not meet performance standards of No Child Left Behind, the federal education reform law.

Of course, because - as is widely accepted now - Florida shot itself in the left foot when it originally set up its tough performance standards for NCLB several years ago, few schools actually can meet the standards.

That means a district such as Seminole, which is one of the top academic performers in the state, has two-thirds of its schools on a list of underperforming schools.

They are divided into groups, based on deficiencies, with titles such as "Prevent I" and "Correct I." That makes school district officials wince, and you are unlikely to see a banner hanging outside Lake Mary Elementary proclaiming "We Are a Prevent I School."

Local officials had probably logically presumed they could use last year's FCAT test as the baseline for student perfomance. But they say the state Department of Education told them no dice, and set an impossible mid-September deadline for completion of the testing, too.

Seminole and probably other districts as well got an extension through October. But they say it will be a huge waste of teacher and student time and effort to take tests in several subjects. The tests have to be repeated at mid-year and year end as well.

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