March 16, 2009

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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