SEMINOLE – With the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test at the center of an expected political storm this year, St. Petersburg College will open the debate with a forum designed to help educators, students and the general public understand Florida’s K-12 academic future.
Titled “Farewell, FCAT – Hello, Common Core: Florida’s New Testing Strategy,” the forum will be Wednesday, Jan. 23, 6-8 p.m., at the Seminole campus Conference Center, 9200 113th St. N. It is the third program in SPC’s 2012-13 Village Square Series under its Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. Media co-sponsors are WUSF Public Media, WEDU, and the Tampa Bay Times.
For 14 years, Florida’s children have faced an academic challenge that caused stress for many and forced some to repeat a grade or be denied a high school diploma. FCAT also impacted the performance evaluations of their teachers and the career plans of their principals.
The assessment test was created in the early 1990s out of concern for low achievement rates and a demand for accountability. Beginning in 1998, it evolved from a simple measure of student success to a blunt pass-fail instrument for students and a standard by which teachers are evaluated and schools labeled as failures.
Many believe the FCAT has become a testing monster that dumbs down the learning process and turns teachers into robots. That animosity toward FCAT boiled over last May, when state educators were forced to lower the pass-fail standard because 73 percent of fourth-graders would have failed the reading test. That embarrassing gaffe has sparked a debate on the entire issue of student testing and teacher accountability. It has drawn the attention of Gov. Rick Scott, who has made education a top priority in the third year of his administration.
Ironically, the FCAT furor comes to a head as Florida is in the process of instituting an entirely new system of testing – one that will largely supplant FCAT in two years. The state has joined a coalition of 45 states that is developing a shared set of assessments in math and English known as the Common Core Standards. As the Common Core Standards are fully implemented in 2014-15, FCAT will be phased out except for science testing.
A distinguished panel representing four stakeholder groups will delve into the impact of FCAT and the new Common Core Standards, as well as debate the broad issue of academic accountability. The panel will include:
• Michael A. Grego, superintendent, Pinellas County Schools
• Mindy Haas, president-elect, Florida PTA
• Jo Anne McCall, vice president, Florida Education Association
• Pam Stewart, chancellor of K-12, Florida Department of Education
• Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up for Students, a nonprofit provider of private school scholarships for low-income students.
Reservations for the dinner event are required by Friday, Jan. 18. They can be made online at www.spcollege.edu/solutions, click on the Village Square link, or by mail: Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, P.O. Box 13489, St. Petersburg, FL 33733. Tickets are $30 for Village Square members and educators, $40 for guests.