Sunshine State News reporter Allison Nielson writes of FCATs last year with a paradox: “Parting is such sweet sorrow — sort of.” And also this:
After a dramatic drop in FCAT writing scores in 2012, the State Board of Education altered Florida’s grading formula to assess schools on the percentage of students whose essays earned a 3 or better. In 2011, the formula last year graded schools on the percentage that scored at least a 4.
With the changes and increased pressure to succeed came growing criticism and controversy over the FCAT.
Many across the state, including teachers and parents, expressed concerns that the test was becoming too heavily emphasized and that teachers had become test-obsessed, ultimately resulting in only teaching students enough to make sure they passed the FCAT.
“[The FCAT] was designed to be a diagnostic tool that could help teachers, administrators and parents understand where they needed to focus attention on particular students,” said Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow. “What it morphed into was something that became the all-encompassing arbiter of public education in Florida.”
While the test originated with good intentions, Pudlow said the FCAT was quickly spread too thin and ended up measuring too much in Florida’s education system.
“Something that was designed to be a diagnostic tool is being used for just about everything but a diagnostic tool,” he said, noting school grades, teacher evaluations and school funding are all reliant on FCAT performance.
Those folks making all those Jeb Bush-is-an-education-miracle-worker TV spots will snort that Pudlow is paid by that loathsome teacher union, but Pudlow is just giving Floridians a fact-based history lesson. In this instance, shooting the messenger would be intended to suppress truth-telling.
While Bush and the rest of the state’s education policy-makers are touting Florida’s new and improved American Institutes for Research tests (AIR), nothing’s really changed. It’s just another high-stakes test, one of which was never meant to be more that a “diagnostic tool,” that will still serve as the end-all on “school grades, teacher evaluations and school funding.”
It’s really worse than Floridians know, too.
Common Core Standards of which Bush’s latest propaganda arm is flacking aren’t evidenced based, and are not even close being fully implemented. Those new tests are supposed to be based on those, too. And those new tests are being field-tested this year in Utah before being dropped on Florida kids next year. Even FCAT was field-tested for five years – and on Florida students.
Meanwhile, the usual suspects are out repeating the same old Common Core blather about how kids in other countries are outperforming ours and that these new Core-based AIR tests will prepare our kids “for a global workforce.” Repeating such unsupported rot is rehearsed agitprop spun for the 24-hour news cycle.
Do they really know what they are talking about or are they more like Nancy Pelosi who once urged passage of Obamacare with, “we’ll have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it?”