I was still very cold in St. Augustine early on the 14th day of Christmas, as I edited this Florida Perspectives column. Scanning the Weather Channel website, even Tampa, my new other favorite Florida city, registered in the upper mid-30s. But, as the warm-up continues, it’s my good fortune to be a native of the Sunshine State, aka Paradise.
I doubt that those residents with allegiance to The Florida State University noticed the cold at all on Monday or Tuesday nights or, even this morning. They’re still celebrating their season-ending joy – winning the BCS National Championship in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Twelfth Night. I am sure that the most-worn apparel on flights outbound Tuesday to Florida screamed garnet and gold. And, I say that while proudly wearing my Florida Gators orange and blue. (We will get back there, Gators, eventually).
But, today is not about gridiron championships. It’s about the start of the second season for public school students. Competition in the classroom heats up – student by student, grade by grade, school by school, county by county. It’s the season of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, aka FCAT. In late February, FCAT Writing tests are given. Mid-April to early May, it’s FCAT testing in reading, math and science. FCAT results are high-stakes competition for students, teachers, and administrators.
St. Johns County School Superintendent Joe Joyner knows that. This district has been Number One overall or, shared the honor, this past decade. (Given the district’s success, we know why Joyner was a potential lieutenant governor candidate last fall. Wisely, he thanked Gov. Rick Scott for the honor but declined further consideration.)
In his weekly report to educators, parents and the general public, Joyner noted the upcoming testing. “As is customary following the winter break, we will now focus on academic progress leading up to testing and assessment for all grades,” he said. “This culminates with opportunities for our students to show the skills and knowledge that they have acquired throughout the entire year. I encourage you to make note of district-wide testing dates on the 2013-2014 Master Calendar to ensure that you can plan and help your child prepare for success!”
If you haven’t heard the testing message in your own district, or missed it, check for yourself. Student success starts at home. Strong parental support for learning, a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast for the students counts heavily. Business operators, who employ students, should also take note when it comes to their work schedules. Student success is our responsibility, because it reflects on their futures, our teachers and our schools.
Margo C. Pope is a former editorial page editor of The St. Augustine Record.