Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Key to High FCAT Scores Is outside the School Building

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Key to High FCAT Scores Is outside the School Building

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

I never thought I'd see the day when a D grade spelled relief.

That day came and went this past May, when six failing Duval County elementary schools received D's on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Had the schools -- St. Clair Evans Academy, Mary McLeod Bethune, Sallye B. Mathis, Annie R. Morgan, North Shore and Pine Estates -- failed, their students would have been eligible for private school vouchers.

So they passed. With D's. But even that took some doing. Most of those struggling elementary schools are in neighborhoods where jobs are as rare as unleaded gas for less than a dollar; where children have to struggle to value what they learn in class more than what they absorb from the streets.

Recently though, Pine Estates Principal James Young decided to challenge his school's D, saying the scores of a special education student were mistakenly calculated in the school's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test score.

I wish him luck.

Too bad no one is challenging the state on something else -- to help struggling schools ace the FCAT by doing more to change the socio-economic environments that surround those schools.

That, to me, is what needs to happen next.

Now, I have some problems with FCAT that have nothing to do with a disproportionate number of schools in poor areas being more prone to fail. Because so much of a school's future is tied to the FCAT, I fear that too many students, regardless of their economic status, will wind up learning more about how to take a test than how to think on their feet. I worry that even the brightest students will no longer welcome learning as a challenge but spurn it as a chore.

That bothers me.

But if a school's fortunes are going to hinge on a single test, then in instances where students' shortcomings are largely tied to what they have to deal with outside of the school, then the state ought to be more willing to help change that environment. …

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