HIGH-STAKES IN FLORIDA
August 8, 2006
The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), a high-stakes standardized exam, has been the foundation of Gov. Jeb Bush's education reforms.
From the beginning of his first term, the test has been used to grade schools and act as an incentive to improve student learning:
- School grades impact funding and in some cases allow students to transfer to other schools.
- In 2003, Bush pushed through legislation that for the first time added student consequences, such as not being promoted to the next grade level, for low test scores.
- Now the state requires local districts to tie part of teachers' salaries to their students' annual gains on the test.
But detractors argue that in order to improve grades, public schools have become massive test-prep factories, with teachers merely "teaching to the test," abandoning everything not covered by the FCAT -- history, art, social studies and music -- to spend more time on reading, writing, math and science.
But testing advocates believe teachers adapt, developing exciting lessons that still focus on the state standards.
"Teachers have become panicked and they teach the test, but you don't have to do that," says Lynn Carrier, Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year. "There seems to have been a shift now that teachers have become more comfortable -- they've been able to integrate those (standards) into the curriculum of the classroom."
Source: Matthew Pinzur, "Standardized, high-stakes test now key," Miami Herald, August 7, 2006
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