From the Miami Herald (ht to Monty Neill):
The FCAT test defines, among other things, whether students pass from third to fourth grade and ultimately whether they graduate from high school with either a standard or special diploma, or whether they will eventually have to take the GED elsewhere. All of this can determine their income range for the rest of their lives.
Not only is it risky to place so many eggs in one basket, it is also unfair to evaluate all students with the same measure regardless of their disabilities (though there are some accommodations), income level and social circumstances.
Margaret Cox, special education teacher at Henry F. West Laboratory Elementary School in Coral Gables, remembers a third-grade student with severe dyslexia. Even so, no changes were made except for extended time to accommodate his specific disability. He flunked, of course, but he did not have to repeat the grade because he had already been retained in kindergarten.
``This boy cried so much it broke my heart,'' she told me. ``He could not read the material, but if the text had been read aloud to him his strong comprehension abilities would have allowed him to pass.''
This accommodation is not allowed in the reading FCAT exam.
Cox has seen students who in the days prior to the test have lost their hair, suffered emotional breakdowns, vomited or developed psychosomatic symptoms.
A test to measure the learning achievements of students is important. But a one-size-fits-all exam cannot define their intelligence, especially if they are stressed. There are other alternatives to evaluate children's progress throughout the year.
A student's value is much more than a grade on a test. That is why this FCAT imbroglio -- and its emotional consequences -- calls for a more human approach to public education in Florida.
If we want our future leaders to be innovative and empathetic, we have to start training them early, making students aware that we value -- besides their academic knowledge -- their creativity, perseverance, responsibility and initiative.