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If you think gators rule the land in Florida, you’re wrong. Let’s talk about the big cat that rules around these parts. I’m talking about the FCAT, the big high stakes standardized test we worship prep for around here.

Thankfully, it’s now come and gone, but just like an encounter with a big cat in the jungle leaves a lasting impression on those involved, no one escapes the FCAT. In fact, it is so important that you have to take it even if you don’t have a whole brain. You know, so the state can hold teachers accountable. After all, students knowing what’s on the test is what matters right?

Now I know, I’m probably just scared because I’m a bad teacher, I hate change, I don’t care about kids, etc… Still, the results of the Writing FCAT for my students just came in Friday, and my brother was asking me why I didn’t seem nervous or excited when we got the announcement that they would be out. The answer is simple: because it means nothing more than whether or not I was able to teach them the formula. The think is, I already know that I do that well (based  where my lowest pass rate being 86% over the 6 years I have taught 8th grade). It tells me nothing however, about the students’ actual writing skills or growth (since the previous time they took the FCAT Writing was in 4th grade).

Now, you might say, “well it’s just one little test, get over it”. It’s not just one little test though. It’s two weeks of testing, disrupting the entire schedule for the entire school. It’s security measures that rival attempting to enter the Pentagon. It’s a whole class period wasted showing kids how to scroll through pages and click on things in 9th grade and then having them sign a statement saying that we did. It’s complete meltdowns when the power fails while the students are taking a test the state insists on having computerized, even when many of the kids maintain they can’t interact with the material as well this way.

With all this emphasis, it’s no surprise that the message students are getting is that testing is what matters. So now, instead of the old “why do I have to learn this? I’m never gonna use it in life,” we get “why do I have to learn this? It’s not gonna be on the FCAT.” There’s little time left for exploration or discussion, or thinking really. Ironic that we’d let the cat kill curiosity at a time when all findings show creativity and adaptability are the skills our workforce needs in order to stay competitive. How are we expecting that from a generation that is learning there’s only one correct answer choice?

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