The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test popularly known as FCAT is a standardised test that began in 1998 for public school students between 3rd grade to 10th as a way of measuring the benchmarks in reading, writing, math and science as per the Sunshine State Standards of Florida. Since its inception, FCAT has generated a lot of heated debates as regards the efficacy of the exams compared to the undue pressure on students and teachers, not to mention the expenses. There are many who believe the tests are justified in improving the standards of education in Florida while others believe that both students and teachers go through a lot of stress for the preparation of the test which ruins the prospect of students to utilize their potential and natural ability. My views go against FCAT. This paper will give a brief overview of FCAT and discuss at length the reasons of my disagreement with FCAT because it is expensive, forces teachers to focus on FCAT curricula, intrudes personal decisions, risks students of not receiving a diploma and very stressful for students and teachers.
Overview of FCAT
FCAT is the standardized test administered by the Florida Board of Education for all public school students studying between grades third and tenth. It first took place statewide in 1998. Students are required to pass FCAT with a minimum score of 300. Based on the percentage of students passing out FCAT and the percentage of growth demonstrated by the students over their performance in previous year, the public schools are graded between A to F. In the case of schools showing improvement in the acquisition of grade or maintaining a straight A throughout, they are awarded a reward money most of which go into the bonus payment of teachers. In the case of students failing the test, they will be allowed to retake the test again next year and based on their numbers, follow a remedial course to improve their performance. All the grade 10 students are, however, required to pass the FCAT for receiving a high school diploma.
An Expensive Process
FCAT is an expensive process. Conducting, developing and correcting papers for FCAT involves huge amount of monetary investment. Out of $20 billion education budget, about a little over $6 billion has already been spent on FCAT this year (Chris Guerrieri). In fact, reviewing FCAT papers is a very time consuming affair involving an array of steps in the checking and rechecking process.
Main Focus on FCAT curricula
Since its inception, FCAT has been subjected to a lot of debates. Though it began with a well-intended purpose of measuring the effectiveness of classroom instructions and locating problems, the actual implementation of the test generated a slew of problems. Both the students and teachers remain under lot of stress due to FCAT scores. Teachers devote their full focus upon preparing students for the standardized test. Though proponents of FCAT opine that the test is a good way to gauge what should be taught in the classroom and enhance the general knowledge of the students, however, the pressure of FCAT forces teachers to put their main focus on FCAT curriculum. Therefore, lot of other essential materials that students need to be learning outside the test remain untouched because of which students might face problems in later years of their career.
Intruding Personal Space
Another reason why I don't agree with FCAT is that FCAT has evolved as juggernaut in deciding the performance of school, students and teachers. The test result influences promotion of the third grade students, class placement, graduation from high school, teacher assessment and their pay scale. FCAT has entered even the personal space of people forcing the decision of renting or buying a house based on the school grades which are dependent of FCAT scores. Parents decide the place of their living based on the grade of a public school. Real estate agents sell and promote properties in localities with A-graded schools nearby. New business ventures too are made considering the location of A-rated schools. A standardized test should not be so predominantly influential that it comes to affect our personal decisions.
Risk of not receiving a Diploma
Since it is mandatory for all tenth grade students to pass FCAT with a minimum score of 300 to obtain high school diploma, it creates problems for students who are not good in giving tests. It puts them at the risk of not receiving the diploma. The risk increases when the schools run short of funds to recruit highly qualified teachers.
Very Stressful for Students and Teachers
In the event of 73% fourth graders and 67% eighth graders failing in FCAT in 2011, the board reduced the passing score from 4.0 to 3.0 on a scale of 6, but it didn't solve the flaws that issue out of the test-oriented educational atmosphere. FCAT creates huge pressure on teachers and students both resulting in the non-utilization of a student's creativity and tension ridden atmosphere in schools. The pressure of FCAT is agonizing on teachers teaching Intensive Reading and Math. Marysol Rivero, an activist against FCAT who also teaches Intensive Reading, stated that FCAT is "intimidating for students, teachers and parents." (Kristof Gregory, 2012) With pressure so intense for performance, school districts have started their own assessment tests to estimate the readiness of students for FCAT. It has created severe pressure on students in terms of appearing for tests. In Hillsborough County, third graders in addition to the reading and math for FCAT have appeared for at least 9 district required tests. Third graders of Palm Beach County have taken 11 and those of Alachua 13. (Cara Fitzpatrick and Jeffrey S) The stress and relentless pressure of tests are ruining the childhood of the third graders whose lives have stuck between preparing for and giving exams. Moreover, due to the constant pressure of tests, students are performing lower than their potential.
Though FCAT started with a well-intended purpose of improving the deucation standard of Florida State, but there are a lot of problems associated with its implementation that does not make it a favorable option for many. It is expensive, narrows down the curriculam, interferes in personal space and very stressful for teachers and students both. Most of the students are faring badly in the tests unable to cope up with the pressure and schools in order to increase their reputation give the full focus on FCAT preparation leaving little room for other educational materials. Considering all the aspects of problem with FCAT, I think, this test is not beneficial for the students.
1. Cara Fitzpatrick and Jeffrey S. Solochek, How FCAT grew up to be the be-all, end-all in Florida, June 2012. Retrieved on 1st May 2011 http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/how-fcat-grew-up-to-be-the-be-all-end-all-in-florida/1236727
2. Kristof Gregory, FCAT Controversy Over State Exams Continues In Florida, December 2012. Retrieved on 1st May 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/fcat-20_n_1587696.html
3. Guerrieri Chris,Chris Guerrieri's Education Matters, March 11, 2013. Retrieved on 1st May 2013 http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-you-didnt-know-about-fcat.html
4. Josh Dermer and Alessia Pizzorni, FALLING SCHOOL GRADE SETS OFF FCAT DEBATE, October 2007. Retrieved on 1st May 2013 http://thebeachcomberonline.typepad.com/opinion/2007/10/falling-school-.html