First of all, thank you so much for your time and for serving the state of Florida.
I would like to talk about the FCAT today.
As we all know, the FCAT scores for our Florida school children were very low this year, due to changes in the test.
In an effort to try to raise standards for the children, we are going to need some money to have trained teachers work one on one with the children who need to rise to the new standards. The budget for the schools was slashed two years ago, then some was given back the second year, but still the schools do not have the same level of money for schools as pre-Governor Scott.
Here is a basic theory for how to use this extra money: Our local Magnet school (of about 500 elementary children) is given two extra teaching units for being a magnet. Voila! Magic! Their scores are higher! We toured this Magnet school in our area, and sure enough, they have trained teachers working with the children whenever the kids are not comprehending the subject matter properly, one on one. Trained certified teachers have the training and continuing education to handle many different types of kids and those children's learning styles. One on one is impossible to do with one teacher or less per class. We could use one more paraprofessional as well for our elementary school of just under 500. Our elementary school has tried multiple ways to find volunteers to help out, but volunteers have full lives on the ‘outside’ and cannot help for the hours of a regular job.
Two trained and certified troubleshooters in an elementary school of 500 to help the children get up to speed, or to teach students who need materials presented differently , it really is brilliant! The test scores in the school we toured were excellent. I believe they were in the top 20 schools based on FCAT scores the prior year.
I’m sure an actual teacher could tell you more specifically what is needed to raise all children to the new standards. I am a Mom.
I stay at home now, but worked in manufacturing for 12 years. In business, whenever there was an issue that was bound to really concern people (freak people out), Corporate certainly was right there to throw money at it! Put some experts in there to make that problem go away! It is my opinion these FCAT scores represent that type of emergency problem, and this time, teachers are our experts.
Consider this: is it worth it to invest in our children right now to help them achieve the required standards of today? Can’t we look to reserves for the money? Heck, get FEMA! This is an emergency - that we want to hold back so many 3rd graders and cause so many high school kids to be worried about graduating!
Please think of your own children and grandchildren. How would your kids react if all of a sudden they are told that they are stupid? Obviously there are many broken hearts, hurt feelings, confusion, and people looking for direction on this issue. If my child had done poorly, I would be a fighting mad Mom!
Self-esteem is so important to a child. I know my kindergartener loves his teacher and would do anything to please her. By the way, I tried teaching my child how to tell time for about 6 months, he just would not bite on it. He went to school one day, and comes back telling time! Teachers are magic!
Now, to speak to the FCAT and the EOC exams. Surely, the company administering and grading these tests has caused enough trouble. I know they are old friends that own the company, but seriously, it is time to cut bait. The company has been late multiple times, we always have to wait for high school grades, and the test window is unsatisfactory. Right now, we are waiting on scores for my daughter. They will not come to the house (or maybe I have to go get them?) until summer vacation starts. That means potentially lots of parents will receive news during summer vacation that their child has failed, with no where to turn for support or esteem building or one on one help. This is very bad business and almost seems like this timing has been created on purpose so that people cannot get together to change it. There are articles written about the testing company and how it does not secure the tests properly, leaving cheating opportunities open, and the reusing of test questions. There are claims of obscure writing topics, so that a student may not know a thing about the topic. How is a student supposed to give details about a subject for which he/she knows nothing? And this time, our entire state has to reconfigure everything due to this company’s test. The teachers were told about the changes the summer prior to the testing season. Surely steering the ship for hundreds of thousands of students takes longer than a few months.
There has to be another company to supply our testing. It’s time to cut bait and remove this huge stressor from our schools and from our kids.
As far as basing retention and graduation on one test grade, it is unfair. I want my kids held to standards, and I asked our teacher about test scores because I want to know how my son is doing - my little one got a perfect score on the kindergarten Discovery test by the way. However, kids are not widgets, there are exceptions to the rule of just learning the material and taking a test. There are far too many important factors dependent upon this one test, particularly when the testing company is not performing the way we need them to with so many students in our state.
So in summary, please consider:
1) providing emergency funds to allow each school more teachers (over the summer!) to work with the students one on one and help them step up to the new standards. They can do it with trained certified teacher help!
2) changing the test provider. The FCAT and the EOC exams have the same types of conflict and issues, and it’s time to cut bait with this troublesome company.
3) a more comprehensive approach to deciding upon retention and graduation. In other words, retention and graduation should be based on a more comprehensive set of criteria than just FCAT scores, as our kids are not widgets.
Thank you for your time,