By Matthew Boyle | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ketterlinus Elementary School first-grade teacher Pam Hubler thinks the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is outdated and unfair.
“Some kids are horrible test-takers,” she said. “They [the Florida Department of Education] base too much on the [FCAT] test.”
The Florida DOE rates schools and county school systems on a letter grade system ranging from A, the highest scores, to F, a school or system that needs significant improvement. Each school is also broken down into subgroups by race, income and students who speak English as a second language.
St. Johns Technical High School is the only school in St. Johns County with an F. The county is pouring help to St. Johns Tech, including a math specialist and a science specialist. St. Johns County also lowered class sizes at the school and brought in new teachers.
Jim Springfield, associate superintendent of the St. Johns County school system, who oversees human resources for schools countywide, thinks the FCAT pressures teachers in a way they shouldn’t be.
“Some people don’t take pressure well,” he said. “We’ve had teachers ask principals to switch to a different grade so they don’t have to deal with the FCAT.”
Springfield thinks Florida’s education standards are higher than many other states, but the FCAT doesn’t help.
“The grade thing is really an odd thing,” he said. “Each subgroup has to meet all the requirements.”
One of the reasons Springfield thinks Florida has higher standards is that a subgroup only needs 30 students. In other states, such as Mississippi, subgroups need at least 90 students.
“For what the state needs, it works,” Springfield said. “It isn’t a good grading system, though.”
Crookshank Elementary School guidance counselor Bailey Benoit thinks the FCATs are more stressful on third-grade students and teachers than any other because they haven’t seen the test format before and they need to pass the test to move on to the next grade. She doesn’t think the tests are comprehensive enough to grade the whole education system but thinks the FCATs do have a solid purpose.
“They’re a good assessment of if kids are meeting sunshine state standards,” Benoit said.
Before becoming a first-grade teacher, Hubler worked with special needs students. She said lots of special needs students weren’t able to read FCAT questions or the reading passages without help, but the Florida DOE requires that teachers do not read questions or help the students.
“It [the FCAT] really isn’t written for special needs students,” Hubler said. “I think it can tell you a lot about the high-performing kids. It isn’t good for lower level students.”
Hubler would like to see a better system that would measure all students. She’d also like to see accommodations for special needs children to help them on the FCATs.