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The latest fiasco involving the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test adds credence to arguments that standardized testing carries too much weight in holding public schools accountable.
As widely reported in mid May, an unexpected large drop in students’ scores on the writing test prompted the state Board of Education to vote to lower the passing score. Florida’s Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said his department should have done a better job letting parents know about the tougher standards this year and will make changes to accomplish that goal.
Continuous changes in standards over the years, as school administrators and teachers have pointed out, are among the many flaws with what school officials’ call “high-stakes” testing. They say that accountability standards based on testing hampers educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote innovation, creativity, problem solving and other skills.
A coalition of national education, civil rights and parents groups are opposed to the use of standardized tests scores for decisions, such as teacher and principal evaluation, student grad promotion and high school graduation. The outcry has led to a national resolution against high-stakes testing that the Pinellas County School Board is being asked to adopt.
The School Board should join two other school districts in Florida that have approved the resolution.
Quite simply, the current standards are forcing teachers to teach to the test. Consequently, the curriculum is narrowed and the love of learning is reduced.
The resolution says that overemphasis on standardized testing is pushing students out of schools and driving teaches away from the profession. Any person who has spent any appreciable time in the schools is bound to hear such sentiments. In Orange County, students worked with a school board member to produce an anti-FCAT video.
Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association President Kim Black urged School Board members to adopt the resolution, saying at the board’s May 22 meeting “our students, teachers and schools have shouldered the burden of an accountability system long enough.”
Agreed. Concerns about the FCAT, the root of the problem, have been expressed since it was first administered in 1998. Some board members and school Superintendent John Stewart share the concerns.
If state officials would consider downplaying test’s role, rather than eliminating it altogether as a means of accountability, that would make a big difference in improving morale among teachers, administrators and students.
Convincing legislators that changes in the accountability system are overdue won’t be easy, based on previous failed attempts to replace the FCAT without other testing criteria. However, support for an overhaul of the process seems to have reached its zenith.
It’s time for the School Board to join other educators in sending the message, via a resolution, that teaching to the test doesn’t make the grade.