Florida K-12 education system errs with shifting standards

July 9, 2013 

Let's watch a football game. Your home team scores a touchdown, point after, and a field goal first quarter and you know it's going to be a good game. The score is 10-0.

Another touchdown is scored, but you notice that only five points go onto the board instead of six. The point after goes wide, and two points are subtracted! The score is now 13-0.

What just happened to the rules of the game? Officials explain they were trying to set the bar higher, so they had to tweak the system and make adjustments during the game. They say it's an attempt to improve football in Florida, so just accept that the game has changed.

Welcome to FCAT as the game is being played by teachers and students all over the state. A few years ago, students at our school scored 42 sixes on FCAT Writes; the next year 35 sixes. This year we had one of two sixes at middle schools in the entire district. Good writing is good writing -- four years ago or today.

The only thing that has changed is the way the state grades the writing. And do we know what has changed or how much mechanics or organization are weighted? No. It is a guessing game for both our teachers and students.

The same can be said for FCAT reading, math and science.

Most educators would agree that accountability is a good thing. We want to graduate educated citizens who can compete at the highest level. But educators are also aware that the FCAT rules are changing each year and we are never sure what goals need to be met.

If we would not tolerate such arbitrary rules for a football game, why do we tolerate them for a test that rates students, teachers and schools? Our state can do better.

Janet Kerley, Haile Middle School Principal|Bradenton

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