High-stakes tests warp school priorities, group says
Nicole Hennegar
May 2003

Every year thousands of children who attend public school in Florida are forced to put conventional knowledge and learning aside in order to learn how to take a test. Their entire curriculum from August to March includes how to fill out multiple choice tests, how to make educated guesses and how to comprehend and write five paragraph essays. The end culmination of this year of learning is for children to spend a week taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test otherwise known as the FCATs. After this week of testing children are left with just short two months of time where teachers attempt to teach them the knowledge that should have been taught throughout the entire year.

Former teachers and former students both agree that the skills that the FCATs teach and test do not in any way tie into the normal curriculum of the classroom. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests are used to find and address deficits in what students should normally be learning. Instead of simply finding out what knowledge the students do or do not posses, the FCATs are being used only to grade school districts on the "intelligence" of their student body. This grading results in more or less school funding by the state depending on how well the district did or did not do on the FCATs thus making school districts more concerned with FCATs than with any other facet of schooling.

The Rouge Forum, a group actively against high-stakes testing, has been successful in their efforts to rid the state of Michigan of their state-mandated tests. According to their petition to rid all states of their high-stakes test, they conclude that: tests measure "parental income and race, and therefor are instruments which build racism and anti-working class sentiment." The Rouge Forum also claims that these test are designed to fail inner-city and poor families while boosting drop-out rates among these children leaving them trapped in the ghetto and poverty.

In Gainesville exists the Gainesville Street School, an organization who is against the inequality and the seemingly unnecessary FCAT testing. It is an organization made up of student of the University of Florida, graduates of the University of Florida, former teachers, and parents. One of their primary goals is to protest and rid the state of Florida of the FCATs. On June 10, the Gainesville Street School will be holding a teach-in to educate the general public about their reasons for being against the FCATs. It will be held at the Civic Media Center at 1021 W. University Ave. at 7 p.m. For more information and education web site please visit www.streetschool.blogspot.com.

Nicole Hennegar is a student in Gainesville, and can be contacted at (352) 373-7838.

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