Is The FCAT Driving You Crazy?

Vicky Bell

When testing really began to be pushed in 1998, my son was in the fourth grade in public school. I had home schooled him for his first and second grade years of school, so he could already multiply and divide by third grade, but the public school did not begin division until fourth grade.

When testing really began to be pushed in 1998, my son was in the fourth grade in public school. I had home schooled him for his first and second grade years of school, so he could already multiply and divide by third grade, but the public school did not begin division until fourth grade. By that year the pressure of the test had now filtered down to the schools, and he began bringing home two to three hours of homework each night. This was driving me crazy! This time on homework was equal to what I had spent on home schooling him each day that already had him ahead of his class.

This testing was part of Clinton’s education accountability strategy. Having standardized tests have always been a part of schools, but now they were pushed to new heights. It became like a wildfire, a competition between every state, district and school. Every year every student had to be tested, and school districts would be judged by how well these students did. Superintendents could lose their job, so they put pressure on principals who then put pressure on teachers who then sent the children home with hours of homework to do. They began to “teach the test.” This continued into the Bush administration with the momentum well underway. Parent’s thought, “Finally a way to see if my child is learning and his teachers are teaching like they should.”

We did see schools and teachers letting our children down. But when the pressure to perform on the test developed into “Teaching the Test,” we lost the sound method of teaching by leaving out the orderly, necessary building blocks of education skills needed for a good basic education. As students and schools received poor results on the test, blame started flying all over the place. In the poorer schools, the parents seemed to receive most of the blame. (I have never seen any school progress from an “F” to an “A” or “B” because they changed the parents.) Certain exceptional principals who were allowed to pick their staff have accomplished this improvement at different schools. So, if a poor school grade caused a changing of the principal and teachers at a school for the better, then this was one of the good results and goals of the test, pushing the school system and structure, the very thing that causes the failure of the test for teaching.

With the pressure and teaching of the test, we do not have a test of good overall basic teaching. The FCAT fails when children are taught how to guess, and how to take this particular test. Let’s lessen the pressure on this pressure cooker by giving the test every year at a school but only in grades three years apart, as in the past. The difference being that we now take results serious, and we can demand the fixes to the structure needed without driving everyone crazy.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.