FCAT Anxiety

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 03:34 PM CDT
FCAT Anxiety story image
Each year the state of Florida spends more than 40 million dollars to give students in grades 3 through 11 the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

But many feel the FCAT is a waste of our time and tax dollars. 
The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT is one test with a lifetime of consequences.

The FCAT has been around for 15 years now and the backlash against standardized testing and its cost for the state is growing every day.

Testing...Testing...And more testing.
Children are crying, parents are obsessing, and educators are sweating.
Is it possible we've let standardized testing get out of control?

Annette Nixon/Gulf Breeze Middle School
"You get stressed. You have trouble sleeping the night before, making sure you don't do one single thing wrong. That you're covering all your bases."

Two million kids hunkering down with their sharpened, number two pencils.
The FCAT is blamed for making kids sick with anxiety, stifling teacher creativity  and turning schools into test-prep factories.

Amanda Williams/Concerned Parent
"Everything relies on the FCAT. And if they have a tough day with it you know it dictates their whole year because of it."

Student promotion, graduation, the evaluation of teachers and administrators, the letter grade assigned to schools are all dependent on this test.
Many feel it's sucking the joy out of learning.

Libby McDowell/8th Grader
"A lot of times teachers mainly focus on one thing, and that thing isn't even on the test. So it's kind of a lot of wasted time when there is other stuff we could be learning."

NCS Pearson has $254 million contract with Florida to develop and distribute the test.
They do so secretly and without much oversight.

That's a lot of power for one company to have.
And getting the FCAT results back in a timely manner has been an on-going problem.  Florida has fined the company millions of dollars for long delays in reporting.

But rather than cutting back the state is giving Pearson more.
The same company has the contract for the end of course exams that will come out in 2014.

They are getting very wealthy off Florida's students, parents, and teachers.
Malcolm Thomas/Escambia County Superintendent
"This drive to do performance pay for teachers is a piece of that equation. Trying to create tests for every class."

"It's is an awful lot, and I don't think we really know how much it impacts our students."
"It's not just money, it's time. Time that it takes away from teaching."

The state Department of Education says testing is a critical way to gauge student progress and has helped Florida make significant academic strides.

But the FCAT is also credited by some for lifting Florida students out of the basement in reading and math and for putting the focus more on poor and minority kids.

Greg Hoffman/Concerned Parent
"I mean how else are you going to evaluate them. If they can't remember what two plus two is, or that the pacific ocean is on the west side of the continent, I mean you know that's a little rough."

There are so many strong opinions about the future of the FCAT in Florida.
You can make those opinions heard by contacting your local state legislator, the governors office or the Florida Department of Education.

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FCAT Anxiety
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