The vigorous debate over Florida’s test-based accountability systems added a figure of national status and significant credibility. U.S. Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Florida #17) was a school principal before entering politics. Also a former Dade County School Board member, Wilson penned a condemnation of FCAT and the suffocating utility in the Miami Herald:
As a former school principal I believe in accountability, but it must be transparent. As we digest the release of school grades from the Florida Department of Education, I want to say one thing — this is madness.
For 14 years I have fought against the FCAT. As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs? How ridiculous. This is nothing but hoodwinking parents and the community by putting grades on a school. No other state in America deceives their communities by devising formulas that no person or school can decipher. For far too long students have been treated as experiments in petri dishes, and life-altering decisions have been made with a callous disregard for children’s futures.
Yowza. Countless Floridians can offer nightmare anecdotes on FCAT, but this one from a sitting United States Congresswoman is a stunner:
When I served in the Florida Senate I demanded to see every version of the FCAT administered to third graders that year. There were 30. I spent an entire day ranking them in the order of their difficulty, and by dinner I had examined tests that ranged from one a first grader could pass all the way to one I don’t think a high school freshman could pass. I immediately demanded to know who decides which schools get which test. Nobody on the premises knew, and to this day I have never received an answer.
After years of complaining and pointing out missteps, and at times borderline criminal activity, I have reached the conclusion that the FCAT continues because it is a cash cow for adults who care absolutely nothing about our children.
While Wilson’s “borderline criminal activity” is something she should have explained and not left swinging in the wind as innuendo, describing FCAT as a cash cow is certainly fair. With state legislators wanting to close public schools based on FCAT data to turn them over to charter school operators – some owned by legislators themselves – it’s quite clear good and bad spreadsheet test data has become the gold standard.