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Broward School Board Discusses De-Emphasizing FCATs

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FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Students get worked up over them, parents dread them and teachers now have part of their merit pay based on their results according to a new law.

They’re the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Tests.

“On the morning of the FCAT I threw up,” said Blaire Hirt, a junior, “And my results affected the outcome.”

On Wednesday, Broward’s School Board discussed a measure introduced by board member Nora Rupert which calls on the state to stop over-emphasizing the importance of the FCAT and move away from it as a testing standard.

In part the resolution reads:

“The overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educator’s efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy.”

“I’m here to tell you if you walk into any fourth grade class, every student is writing the same. They have taken away creativity,” said board member Robin Bartleman.

“We need to have the courage to do the right thing in the classroom,” said Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Rupert told CBS4’s Eliott Rodriguez earlier this month that it’s time for teachers to stop teaching toward the test.

“Everybody is done with the FCAT.” Rupert said. “When it comes to teaching and kids there can’t be one be all, end all. You have to have more than one assessment otherwise everyone loses.”

“Hopefully it does have an impact where students can come into a classroom and they are excited to do projects,” said junior Mariah Brown, “When everything is not geared toward this test.”

The goal is to get other districts around the state to pass a similar resolution and build a ground swell against the FCAT.

Those against the standardized test point to the recent debacle when the state tried to raise the passing mark to a 4 and found only about a third of the students met the tougher standard. State officials lowered the standards back to a 3 when they realized not many students in the state could meet increased expectations.

Rupert added that the only winner in the FCAT scores debacle is Pearson Testing, the company that has a multi-million dollar contract with the state of Florida to administer the FCAT.

In Broward County, just 51 percent of freshmen scored at level 3 or above, while 48 percent scored below passing level. Less than half of the county’s sophomores students score at level 3 or above on the FCAT’s reading test.

When it came to the writing portion of the test, only 42 percent of Broward’s sophomores passed at a 4.0 or above.

However using 3.0 as a passing grade, Broward County saw 87 percent of sophomores pass.  A similar number of freshman passed when the bar was set back.

The numbers were even more dismal in the lower grades.

When it came to the county’s fourth graders, only 32 percent passed at the level 4 standard. When the passing grade was set back to 3, nearly 84 percent of fourth graders passed.

For eighth graders, Broward saw just 41 percent pass at level 4.0 or above. When the passing mark was moved back 82 percent passed.

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