A call out to my Palm Beach friends from “testing is not teaching,” and the CTA — good luck today. Your issues over testing and education policy are not unique to your county and many parents of public school kids, like me, all over Florida will be rooting for you. Florida has gone test crazy and it’s gotten to the point where our children are being treated like widgets. The FCAT narrows the curriculum by forcing schools and teachers to ignore anything that isn’t part of the grading criteria. It has created a school system where the floor is the ceiling, minimal competence is the only goal, and where teaching to the test has become a sad, sad recipe for faux success.
Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, the latest incarnation of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act has combined to create even more problems. The fact that 90% of all schools in Florida have failed to comply with the Act is sending administrators into panic to the point where they are performing triage on school kids – directing teachers to devote special attention and create individualized strategies for selected students who are deemed tantalizingly close to passing the FCAT while ignoring those that are either too far behind or comfortably ahead. All well and good, but what about the kids who aren’t on the “bubble?” Don’t those kids who have failed FCAT by a larger margin deserve special attention too? Or how about the ones that could achieve higher than the norm. What happened to a school system whose job was to make sure every kid reached their potential?
Public education is suppose to be the great equalizer – but testing strategies that force all students to dwell at minimal competence is not any way to equalize.