March 16, 2009

Thesis Statement and Position


For years, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) has been the only component used to rank public schools despite the fact that the test is not an effective measurement. Florida Legislatures need to incorporate other elements, such as graduation rates, when determining overall school grades.

Illustration of the Problem

Everyone in the state of Florida has heard of the infamous standardized test called the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). All students between third and tenth grade are required to take the standardized test. Then the state uses their results to generate a letter grade. This letter grade represents the overall quality of the public school, including teacher performance and student achievement. In addition, the FCAT is closely tied to “school financial incentive” (Daylor 1). This is shown through “the higher the school grade, the greater the funding given to the school” (Dermer 1).

Miami-Dade County Public Schools attempt to teach their students the necessary knowledge needed for after school. In order to ensure their student’s achievement, the county purchased the Hansen’s software. The software keeps “track of student performance and standardized tests” (Dermer 1). The county plans on using the software to measure schools’ progression and continue improvement within the school.

Despite the fact that Miami-Dade County is attempting to improve the schools, there is one school in particular that deteriorating. In 2007, Miami Beach Senior High School’s grade fell from a “C” to a “D”. Critics believe that the cause of this decline is the FCAT (Dermer 1). Another contributing factor to the decline at Beach High is that many students were not properly taught the basics. Activities Director at the school believes that “the problem lies within the early years of learning” (Dermer 1). Teachers are being forced to teach mainly on FCAT material, in hope of increasing the school’s reputation. However, this is not beneficial to the students. More and more students are becoming intimidated by the standardized test, thus causing them to perform lower than their potential.

It is clear that Beach High is in well needed financial help. If the school received more funds, then the school could spend more money on improving the school. Better teachers could be hired and ore extensive programs. State legislatures need to be more cautious about our education and future generations. No state standardized test can accurately measure a student’s intelligence or a teacher’s performance.



Sources

Failing School Grades Set Off FCAT Debate
FCAT... Fair or Flawed?

Definition of the Controversy

Every February, Florida public school students begin the unfathomable standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). All students between the grades third and tenth are required to take the state-mandated test. Students arrive at school and are shuffled to assigned classrooms where a proctor cites the well-known FCAT procedures. Then students bubble in answers with their number two pencils and hope to receive at least a score of 300 (relevant to an average letter grade). Scores are released over the summer and that is when parents discover whether or not their child must retake the test.

The FCAT is one of the most heated debates in the state of Florida. The controversy began in 1996 when the Florida Department of Education began creating the state-mandated test. In the beginning, the test was designed to gauge students’ performance on their reading and mathematical skills and on the Sunshine State Standards (Florida Department of Education 1).

The state made the FCAT mandatory for all Florida public schools to administer to students between the grades third and tenth. Those students are required to pass the state standardized test with a minimum score of 300. However, if a student does not pass a specific section of the test, then they must retake the test the following year, and depending on their score the student may have to take remedial course. In addition, it is mandatory for all tenth grade students to pass the Grade 10 FCAT in order to receive a high-school diploma (Daylor 2). The FCAT is harder for those students that are natural “bad test takers” because it places them behind their fellow classmates and in danger of not receiving a diploma. Perhaps even harder if they attend a school that does have the necessary amount of funds needed to hire high quality teachers.

The purpose for the FCAT is to “gauge the effectiveness of instruction” in the classroom and “pinpoint problems” (FCAT FAQ’s 1). Although the states intended purpose was good, the actual implantations are far worse because teachers are only focusing on the standardized test. Proponents of the FCAT say the test is “a good way to measure what students should be learning in the classroom” and “whether students are acquiring more general knowledge and not just a narrow set of skills to pass the test” (Daylor 4). But opponents of the FCAT argue that the standardized test narrows down teachers’ curriculum and forces them to “teach to the test” (Daylor 4). Therefore students are not properly learning the material that the need for entering the real world. The FCAT ends after high school and students need to be well educated on the fundamentals outside of the test.Florida legislators need to exam the efficiency of the FCAT and determine whether or not the standardized test is a useful component for measuring public schools. We need to make sure that our future generation is well educated and better off. Because they are the ones that will one day be leading our companies and nation.


Sources Used
FCAT FAQ's
FCAT ... Fair or Flawed?
History of Statewide Assessment Program (HSAP)
Does FCAT Pass The Test?


Definitions

Sunshine State Standards: “The state’s core curriculum. The Sunshine State Standards are what a child should know and be able to do at every grade level. The standards cover seven content areas: social studies, science, language arts, health/physical education, the arts, foreign language, and mathematics and are divided into smaller units called ‘benchmarks’” (FCAT FAQ’s 1).

“Teach to the test”: Event where teachers are only education their students on the material that is on the FCAT
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