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Dava Stein Headshot

FCATs: Are They Really Necessary?

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I have some issues with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. They cause way more stress than is needed. I have been taking the FCATs ever since I moved to Florida about six years ago, and for the first time ever I had received a poor grade. How could that happen? I had received nothing less than 3s and 4s for the last five years, and when it came to my sophomore year to once again take the horrid test, I receive a 2. I am being forced to take the retake, which I completed back in October of 2012, and once again received a 2. I didn't suddenly forget how to read for comprehension. In my mind, these tests aren't needed; there are so many other ways to check a student's comprehension and understanding of the topic.

I get the fact that the state wants to make certain that students are achieving and teachers are teaching at the levels needed to help us excel, but it looks like the test was doing nothing more than knocking down the teachers and dropping the schools' grades, even though my grades weren't dropping. Then they decide on the amount of money the school gets from the state based on the schools' grades, even though they don't really appear to represent the quality of the teachers and schools. They even grade teachers with "special needs" (SES) students and English as Second Language (ESL) students the same way as the other kids even though they have a much tougher job.

I think they need to find other means of tests, or exams -- anything to get rid of this test and the new tests like it that they are starting to use. They are finally phasing the FCAT out, after years of damage to the kids and the system. They are substituting the new End of Course (EOC) tests, K-12 core tests and PERT tests. I see problems with these tests, too. The EOC tests are computer-based, even though the school doesn't have enough computers for all the kids to take the test at the same time, so it takes days to administer them.

The teachers and adults are always stressing kids out with these tests. Teachers worry that the tests will change the amount they are paid, or merit pay. Administrators are worried that overall bad test scores bring down the school's grade, and affect the amount of funds they will have next year.

Being a student myself, I can tell you it's not easy to balance so many things and still worry and do everything we can to take this test and pass. With everything from end-of-semester exams, end-of-course exams, then midterms, finals (and the dreaded SATs and ACTs) -- it's just another test to stress out for. And worst of all there isn't much one can do to study for this test, unless the teachers spend more time teaching the test than teaching the subject.

What good does this test do for students, when they could be tested using other methods? Not to mention, what if a student performs poorly on the FCAT? They will be judged on how well they do, even if they have a high caliber of intelligence, or do well in school, or have a high IQ. Is it really fair that they could potentially be held back from graduating when they are supposed to? The requirement for my class, which is the class of 2014, is to get a 3 or higher on the Reading FCAT. What if they don't do well, but they still accomplish great things in their high school career? Part of the perks that come with having seniority is the fact juniors and seniors are exempt from taking the reading and math FCATs. But unfortunately, people like me -- who have always done well on them then recently got a poor grade -- are forced to retake the FCAT until we get a passing grade.

All in all the FCATs should have been eradicated after middle school. I could understand having them in middle school, where there are few major exams, but in high school, where there is literally a test or quiz every single week, it is a bit too much. When you add in extracurricular activates, grades, school, family life, personal life, sports and studying, it all takes up a lot of time.

There has got to be a better way to evaluate teachers and schools. These standardized tests aren't doing the students any favors.