Measure of Success Part 1: Put It to the Test
It's designed to be the measure of student progress and a pre-requisite for success. But is the FCAT necessary for success in the real world?
The fate of the FCAT may hang in the balance, now that Florida is exempt from federal "No Child Left Behind" standards. Its value may be determined by how relevant it is.
So, TV20's Corrie Lovette put the FCAT to the test...
This is what it's like to be a student these days. Andrea Clenney said, "I feel for them...I mean it has to be a bit terrifying."
TV20 News Director Andrea Clenney put herself in a similar position, taking a much simplified sample FCAT. So how did she do?
Alachua County Schools Spokesperson Jackie Johnson said, "You got 9 incorrect and 5 correct."
Which means this Emmy Award Winner, who holds a Master's Degree, failed the test.
Johnson said, "Your results are pretty much typical of what we see among adults."
The sample test has math questions from elementary, middle and high school. Plus high school biology, algebra, geometry and reading to round out the exam. Which is truly just a glimpse of what school children experience on the FCAT.
Johnson said, "They're getting a 15 minute multiple choice version of the FCAT...they're not getting the one hour, two hour version of the test that not only has multiple choice questions, but requires students to write essays, requires them to come up with their own answers."
Her score isn't all that surprising considering this is subject matter Andrea hasn't seen in decades. Clenney said, "I graduated high school in 1978, so it's been a long time since I had to take any of this."
However, for current students the FCAT goes beyond basic skills learned in the classroom.
Johnson said, "The new passing score for the FCAT reading test in 10th grade is equivalent to scoring a 440 on the SAT. That's going to be meaningless to a lot of people but that's the score that students need to get into college without having to take any remediations."
Which means to graduate high school you have to be ready for college whether or not you plan to go. Some say that's a good thing, raising the bar on Florida schools and students.
National School Choice Week Vice President Andrew Campanella said, "We need to know if kids are failing, we need to know if kids are doing great...we need to have some bench marks. If we don't have those things then we end up with a system where people are going to school, they're leaving school at the end of the day. We don't know how they're doing... they're graduating and we don't know whether they can put together a sentence. We need an education system that is getting kids ready for the 21st century workforce."
Gilchrist, Dixie, Union and Alachua counties all rank in the top 25 for FCAT scores in school districts across the state.
Levy and Marion counties are in the top 50.
Johnson said, "We analyze the FCAT data classroom by classroom, school by school, student by student so we can see where the student's strengths and weaknesses are and we can adjust our curriculum, adjust our instruction to match what it is... where the student is and where they need to be. that's a worthwhile use of the fcat."
The FCAT can be a great tool. But some fear the weight given to the test is a one size fits all approach that will end up hurting students in the end.
After getting a taste of what Florida students now experience, Andrea Clenney thinks the current system may be "failing."
Clenney said, "A lot hangs in the balance of that one test and I don't know how fair that is."
Tuesday night you'll hear from students themselves. Facing unprecedented challenges, we'll tell you about their success and failures and dig deeper into the questions raised by high stakes testing.
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