Since the introduction of the FCAT, there has been a growing concern that the test damages Florida’s education system. One of the primary complaints – proposed mainly by teachers – is that it reduces the focus on traditional curriculum by forcing teachers to “teach to the test.”
The Boca Raton News reported Thursday that the school board of Palm Beach County hired a consultant from Page Turner Adventures for $1200. The consultant was hired to teach two-hour seminars on “test-taking strategies and techniques for reading, math, and writing” at Manatee Elementary School. The primary focus of the seminars is improving FCAT scores.
The article reveals the power the test holds over decision makers. Monroe Benjamin, one of the board members who approved the funding of the program, said “I find it difficult to support but I do not want to interfere with the FCAT.” The test has become such a major aspect of the educational experience that it is forcing administrators to approve the hiring of private educational firms to teach test-taking strategies, often at the expense of the school’s curriculum.
The St. Petersburg Times reported on its Web site that test teaching in Palm Beach County and other school districts is prompting lawmakers to consider new ways to prevent such spending and the alteration of curriculum because of the FCAT.
“The Legislature does not want people teaching to the test,” state Rep. John Legg, vice chairman of the House Education Committee, told the Times. “They want people teaching the curriculum, and the test measures it. All these months and months and months and months of prep work really, of FCAT prep, shouldn’t exist. The only time a student should hear ‘FCAT’ is on test day. That’s it. That’s all it’s designed for. Weeks ahead of time, it’s not intended for that.”
But what the Legislature seems to be overlooking is that by creating incentive-based programs that reward schools for exemplary FCAT performance, they are forcing schools to build their curriculum around the test.
While Legg and other representatives should work together to create and enforce strict policies that prevent schools from instituting FCAT-specific curriculum, they continue to overlook the true culprit. The problem isn’t the county boards that seek to improve student’s FCAT scores, or the teachers who end up having to teach the test. If the state decides to prevent FCAT preparation, the results will reveal the massive disconnect between the test and the substance of a well-rounded curriculum.