Measure of Success Part 2: Higher Stakes, Higher Pressure
For North Central Florida schoolkids, standardized testing isn't new. But higher stakes mean new pressures.
Today's students are navigating Florida's education system armed only with a "Number 2" pencil.
About the FCAT 4th grade student Katie Thomas said, "It's a test that you have to be really good at or you can't pass a grade."
It's tough to be a kid these days, especially in school. Bullying, media pressures, growing pains and in Florida: the FCAT.
When asked about passing the FCAT, 1st grade student Malek Taylor said, "I don't know."
The Florida Statewide Assessment Program has morphed slowly since its inception in 1971 into the modern day FCAT.
4th grade student Kade Purvis said, "You're doing math, reading and writing, and you're trying to probably like, pass."
The test goes beyond multiple choice to essay and gridded response.
Alachua County Public Schools Spokesperson Jackie Johnson said, "The FCAT is not a basic skills test... it is a test of higher order thinking skills."
Public school children in Florida first take the comprehensive Math and Reading FCAT's in third grade. Their score can determine whether or not they move on to 4th grade. Between elementary school and their senior year, students take FCAT tests in Writing and Science too.
The highest stakes come in 10th grade, when you have to pass the Reading and Algebra 1 tests to graduate.
Kelvin Spivey said, "Last year was as close as I've ever came to passing it."
ACT, SAT, the FCAT... for Florida students, one or all of these acronyms represent a gateway to the future. But for some, a standardized test feels more like a roadblock.
Spivey said, "I went through a little depression for a couple of months."
For Spivey the test was initially a roadblock. This Gainesville High School senior didn't pass the test in 10th grade or on subsequent attempts. For awhile he thought the FCAT would stand in the way of his dream to join the Marines.
Spivey said, "My great grandfather was a World War II veteran, my grandfather was NFL free agent, my father was in the army, my step father was in Desert Storm...and now it's down to me and my brother. And so I wanted to be that great male in our family."
Mary Beriau helped Kelvin prepare for the FCAT in intensive reading. She says the biggest hindrance for students is often morale.
Gainesville High School Teacher Mary Beriau said, "They don't like to tell people they're in reading, they don't like to tell people who their teacher is and they're very embarrassed about the situation."
Mary teaches test strategies and comprehension skills, simulating the test environment and giving plenty of practice exams.
Some catch up and pass, others can't; a reality that makes the difference in their futures.
Beriau said, "I have kids in my class who want to go to Santa Fe (college), or they want to go to certificate programs out at Sante Fe and they don't know if they're going to be able to do that."
After buckling down in the classroom, Kelvin made the grade this fall.
Spivey said, "It was a big stepping stone for me when i finally accomplished it and it took a lot of weight off my shoulders."
Now Kelvin's waiting to hear back from the Marines. Being on track for a high school diploma has opened that door. It's one you have to walk through for most jobs.
But the FCAT and other new graduation requirements set forth in recent legislation now set the bar at a college level, which some students don't feel is necessary.
Gainesville High School Senior Robert Baker plans to become a welder after graduation. He said, "It seems now everybody is pushing you to go to college, saying if you don't go to college you won't make a good living, you won't make enough money to support your family."
For some students, that's a healthy push... but for others it raises the question: Does all the pressure really just stand in the way?
On Wednesday night find out how the FCAT has transformed the education system and what this means for the future.
- Measure of Success Part 1: Put It to the Test
- "Measure of Success" Part 3: Making It Work
- Educators Look for Test to Replace FCAT
- Half of Florida High School Students Fail FCAT Test
- Music in Early Education Shows Benefit to FCAT Test Scores
- Students Use Art to Mark End of FCAT Testing
- Schools Across North Central Florida Begin FCAT Testing
- Florida Higher Education Panel Holds 1st Meeting
- Problems continue for Florida's computerized testing
- Students Struggle on FCAT Math & Reading Tests