I recently had a conference at my son’s high school to go over his IEP and find out why he’s failing. I asked why only one of his teachers had called me – the week before grades went in – to tell me he was going to fail if he didn’t pass the exam. Out of seven teachers, four of whom knew he had a ‘D’ or ‘F’, I got only one call and that one was too late in coming.
After expressing my displeasure, you know what I was told? “In all fairness to them, they have a lot on them this year because of the FCAT.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the FCAT, allow me to explain. The FCAT is the year end student assessment test. It is supposed to measure student success in meeting educational goals throughout the year. Under the Jeb Bush administration, it was implemented to replace the California Achievement Test and has been used ever since.
Theoretically a more thorough assessment instrument, implementation of the FCAT has done more to ruin the education system in Florida than any other single event. Teachers no longer have the flexibility to lead their students through the lessons at a comfortable pace. They can’t work at the speed of the students. Instead, they have to push to cover ‘X’ amount of information prior to FCAT. They are now, in effect, teaching the test.
What happens to students like my son who are struggling to keep up? They get further behind and fall through the cracks because the teachers are too busy to help them.
As a parent, this angers and saddens me. It angers me because no test should put so much pressure on every student, teacher and school in the state. The kids are terrified of it. The teachers talk about it in whispers like it’s a dirty word. Administrators wield it like a sword above the heads of their staff because funding depends on scores.
I used to teach high school. I know the pressure teachers are under for their students to succeed. Even with upwards of 30 students (36 in one class when they all bothered to show up), I was expected to track individual progress. I was required, by mid-quarter, to notify parents of their child’s impending failure. Not a week before grades went in.
I didn’t have e-mail, it didn’t exist. I didn’t have a computer program to help me with my grades, planning or paperwork. Yet I had the same expectations for student success as teachers do now. So, when I get the explanation, “…because of the FCAT”, do I have any sympathy at all? No!
The sympathy just about died after my son nearly failed the 9th grade. It suffered further when he nearly failed 10th. It’s totally dead now and that one sentence killed it. There is no hope for resurrection or resuscitation. It is completely, totally and irrevocably gone.
Because of the FCAT, my child cannot be successful. Because of the FCAT, I am in the untenable position between a rock and a hard place, trying to decide what’s best for him and how to get him through the next year and a half of school. Because of the FCAT, teachers struggle to keep afloat, juggle their paperwork and teach their students. However, I will not accept that because of the FCAT, the teacher has no time to call me. Try to feed that line to someone else, because I’m not buying it.
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