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First day of the FCAT

Today was the day lots of students were waiting for or dreading.The first day of FCATs.   
The FCAT is a state assessment test given to third through tenth graders.
Depending on grade level, students are tested on reading, writing, math and science.
Scores generally range from one through five, with one being the lowest.

FCAT time always stirs the debate over whether the tests truly help kids learn.
Remember the periodic table of elements. For those of us who've forgotten how stressful a day of testing can be, just ask the kids in Mrs. Ellis's 8th grade science class"

The end of "FCATs: Day One" is cause for celebration.
Last-minute studying was what Juan Hernandez did this weekend. His family puts a lot of weight on FCAT success.

Juan Hernandez says, "It decides if it puts you in advance classes or regular classes, and you want to be in advanced classes because that sets you for college"
Other kids say the pressure's on, but they feel their teachers have prepared them well.
Ruvi Maldonado says, "If you listen and learn all year then all the stuff that you take in,  you're basically prepared for the FCAT"
Some people say the pressure's too much, and the priorities misplaced.
Tracy Sterry says, "They teach FCAT, FCAT, FCAT until the beginning of the test, then after that they don't teach anything else"
Tami Ellis has heard the criticism that teachers only teach the test. She says it comes from lack of information.
"Every teacher has a list of standards we're supposed to accomplish in a given year. That's what we teach. FCAT looks at those standards. See, FCAT is really testing them based on what I'm teaching, not the other way around"

By law, teachers have to follow what's called the sunshine state standards.
Ellis tells her students that agree or disagree, this test and others will be part of their lives for a while.

Parent Vicki Eubank says despite the stress, the FCAT can be useful.
"Just so we know what level they're on, I think it is a good thing"

In those instances when a student's promotion to the next grade is hinging on FCAT scores, they can always come to summer school and take another assessment at the end of this summer to help them move on.