The FCAT = Freaking Corrupt and Tainted
From today's Miami Herald:
FCAT can destroy some students' futures
José and Franklin live next door to each other. Both are 18-year-olds who grew up in two-parent homes. José's parents enrolled him at Gulliver Academy while Franklin's parents decided he would enter public schools. As teens, both were active in their community and churches. José and Franklin were honors students, computer whizzes and boasted of 3.5 GPAs. Both young men aspired to become as successful as their parents.
After completing his mid-terms and final exams, José earned a 3.5 GPA, 30 credits and had decent scores on the ACT and SAT exams. José planned on attending Florida International University.
Franklin earned a 3.5 GPA after completing his mid-terms and finals. He, too, accrued 30 credits and made decent scores on the ACT and SAT exams. Unlike a private-school student, he was required to take the FCAT exam. He took the reading portion of the test five times, but did not pass. As a last resort, Franklin hoped to score a 14 on both the math and reading portions of the ACT, which was an alternative score to the FCAT. In the interim, the state raised the score to 15, and sadly Franklin only scored a 14.
Why didn't Franklin pass the FCAT? It is a flawed instrument that does not measure intelligence. It contains hundreds of ambiguous questions that frustrate children and provide more than one answer that could be correct on every question. It costs the state $120 million annually to administer. Why do we use it? Neil Bush, brother of our governor and president, owns the software to the FCAT and earns millions annually from Florida's state budget.
On graduation day, both young men donned their caps and gowns and walked across the stage. José proudly displayed his high-school diploma. Sadly, Franklin had only a certificate of attendance to show for his 13-year academic career. His dreams of attending college were shattered. He was confused, his spirit was broken and his psyche was damaged.
Franklin and his parents confided in me. Franklin was highly motivated, bright and caring and had what it takes to become a successful contributor to society. My first task was to engage a psychiatrist to work with Franklin. I enrolled him at a private school. The school analyzed his transcript, qualifications and gave him a series of tests. He passed his exams and received a Florida high-school diploma. Franklin's psyche was intact, and his confidence renewed. Franklin is attending Miami Dade College and doing well.
This scenario is repeated every day in Florida. Students like Franklin experience the effects of an educational policy that, at best, is aimed at confounding the confidence of our youth. At their worst, FCAT policies underscore the rising tide of inequity that currently has a stranglehold on the futures of our children. If we look honestly at this comparison, the superficial flaws become apparent. Current policy saddles public-school students with rigid, strenuous requirements not levied upon students attending private schools.
We lose hundreds of thousands of students to private schools each year. When public schools lose children, they lose money. We cannot afford to idly watch the dismantling of public schools as a consequence of high-stakes testing such as the FCAT. The oppressiveness of such a policy will ultimately be noticed in the swelling ranks of poverty, unemployment, crime and imprisonment. If we are to renew the hopes of our children for the future, we must not fail them today.
FREDERICA S. WILSON, Democratic Whip and state Sen., Dist. 33, Miami