Defense of FCAT and Jeb Bush’s high-states test regime has been limited to his Gang of Four in policy wonk Patricia Levesque, former Bush ed commissioner John Winn, former Bush chief of staff and current BOE chair Kathleen Shanahan and embattled current education commissioner Gerard Robinson. Realizing they needed someone else, Florida speaker-in-waiting Will Weatherford was recruited. It’s easy to dispatch with Weatherford’s opinion piece that will be published in tomorrow’s Tampa Bay Times. The speaker-designate used identical talking points to those which Patricia Levesque used last week. Weatherford, like Levesque painted FCAT as virtuous for “Florida’s students are achieving more than ever before.”
Both Levesque and Robinson are touting improved graduation rates-particularly among African-American and Hispanic students. It’s beyond me what FCAT has to do with that as these kids last took FCAT two years ago. No word on how many among these sub-groups – or any group for that matter – graduated with the assistance of one of the state’s woefully lacking in rigor credit recovery programs.
Weatherford, like Levesque, seeks to narrow “achievement” into a context which best serves them. When one considers “preparedness,” achievement numbers on FCAT deflate in comparison. Even graduation rates become dubious as its clear, Bush’s FCAT dominated system isn’t preparing students to succeed at the next level.
In January this year, the Ocala Star Banner’s Brad Rogers wrote that 59 percent of in coming College of Central Florida freshmen of the 2009-2010 session required remediation in reading, writing or math. Rogers pointed out that many of these freshmen cam from Marion county A schools whose students preformed remarkably on FCAT. A 2007 FDOE study revealed a similar number at 55 percent. Florida Board of Education member John Padget told the Tampa Bay Times Jeff Solochek in November 2011 the number was a whopping 70 percent.
It is the realities of numbers like these which prompted school board members – republicans among them - from Florida’s 67 districts to say enough is enough with passage of a resolution on high-stakes testing. Weatherford, like Levesque aren’t inside Florida’s classrooms like the state’s school board members are. Unlike Weatherford and Levesque, they actually visit schools, speak with teachers and administrators and take phone calls from parents everyday. Yet the inference of Weatherford and Levesque is that these school board members aren’t seeing what they are seeing and just don’t know what’s good for them.