Running out of arguments in FL
- To: <"Undisclosed-Recipient:;"@interversity.net>
- Subject: Running out of arguments in FL
- From: Sue Allison <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 11:29:57 -0400
This is too much - now it's OK to torment kids with high stakes tests because Annika Sorenstam played in a men's golf tournament! I think they're running out of arguments in Florida. And this argument is even more ridiculous -- "The point is to make an underfunded education system work and do so fairly with the FCAT." Hello?!
Posted on Wed, May. 28, 2003
Expect more, not less, from kids
As I watched pro golfer Annika Sorenstam play with skill, grace and guts at the Colonial Open, I thought about the FCAT and kids who are having trouble passing it. Some of their most passionate defenders -- and the ones calling for the FCAT to be suspended -- argue that kids shouldn't be put under such pressure to pass a test.
''Third graders are having to get counseling,'' says Bishop Victor T. Curry, the leading voice in the FCAT Protest Coalition. ``I went to the home of one little girl who said she was going to commit suicide if she didn't pass. What are we doing to our kids?''
We are expecting them do better, demanding that they do better and, we hope, giving them the tools, direction and help to do better. We want to get them to the point where, like Sorenstam, they say to themselves as they, metaphorically, tee up on test day: ''I know I can do this.'' And if, like Sorenstam, they don't do well enough the first time, we want a system in place to pick them up and encourage them to try again -- try until they succeed.
To hear FCAT opponents tell it, simply trying should be enough for black and Hispanic kids. ''I'm hoping the governor will realize,'' State Sen. Frederica Wilson says, ''that it's hard enough being black in America today.'' Hard enough so that black kids or recently arrived immigrants shouldn't have to take a race-neutral, culturally unbiased test to see if they learned what every other kid in the class was supposed to learn?
Sounds to me like Wilson, a former teacher and principal, is invoking the old double standard that was thrown out in Brown v. the Board of Education. That one says that there's no such thing as ''separate but equal'' when it comes to public schools. Brown seems to be one of the few court decisions that Gov. Jeb Bush not only accepts but embraces. Ever since he introduced his A+ Plan in 1999, Bush has made it clear that he believes that all Florida students should be held to one standard of achievement and prove it by passing the FCAT.
Allowing less from minority students, the governor has consistently said, amounts to giving in to the ''soft bigotry of low expectations.'' When FCAT results were announced May 16, they showed steady improvement by students at nearly every grade level and impressive improvement by minority students. According to the state Department of Education, 41 percent of African-American fourth graders are now reading at or above grade level versus 23 percent in 1998; and 51 percent of Hispanic fourth graders are reading at or above grade level versus 38 percent five years ago. ''Instead of boycotting,'' said the governor, ``people should be celebrating.''
It's too early for that, considering that the FCAT results show that more than half of Florida's black fourth graders and slightly less than half of their Hispanic classmates still are not reading at grade level. The Miami-Dade numbers, while showing some improvement overall, are pretty dismal, especially for schools in poor neighborhoods with mostly minority students.
But neither is it time for the FCAT to be suspended. It's pointless to demand it, as Curry did at a rally last week in language that was harsh and hyperbolic. Raising the specter, as he did, of some dark conspiracy that wants black and Hispanic children to fail is cruel. To imply that the governor is one of the conspirators and is making money off the FCAT is vicious.
Further, reminding FCAT opponents of the 2000 election fiasco in Florida and the need to beat George W. in 2004 gives Jeb the ammunition he needs to dismiss the FCAT Coalition as politically motivated. Curry's supposed coup de grace -- the boycott of Florida citrus, theme parks and sugar -- is utterly pointless. The point is to make an underfunded education system work and do so fairly with the FCAT.
There have been improvements: Half a dozen ways to prove proficiency are in place for third graders who fail the FCAT. As this column is written, the Legislature is about to pass a bill that would let high school seniors who fail the FCAT still get their diplomas by passing other standardized tests.
For everyone else, it's FCAT or bust. So the message is simple: Buckle down and study. Read 'til midnight. Practice with flash cards. Sweat if necessary, bite your nails if it relieves tension. Just do it. Remember that champions like Annika Sorenstam don't succeed because somebody told them they could quit early, slack off or go home because the pressure was too great.
Life is a test, one long FCAT. We all have to take it. No exceptions.
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