By: Rebecca Schwartz
Most of us have heard about the FCAT controversy. Although the FCAT has been around since 1998, this is the first year that students are required to pass the FCAT in order to graduate from high school. The test was originally created to determine a public school’s overall grade, (and therefore funding) and students achievement. Although all public school students in Grades 3-10 take the FCAT Reading and Mathematics in the spring of each year, graduating high school only depends on your tenth grade scores. If they pass, they move on. If they fail, however, they have five more chances to pass. In accordance with this new ruling, a student who has not passed by the fifth time won’t graduate. Is this ruling fair? How tough is this test? Decide for yourself; check out a sample test at www.firn.edu/doe/sas/fcat/fcatit02.htm.
According to the Miami Herald, at this point in time, an estimated 12,500 Florida high school seniors will not be graduating because they did not pass the FCAT. Out of those students, 4,800 students attend schools in Miami Dade County, and 1,500 attend schools in Broward County. As you can imagine, this has hit some students quite hard. Daniel Charles has a football scholarship waiting at North Carolina A&T, however, he is unable to pass the math portion of the FCAT, and therefore, unable to graduate. It’s hard to understand why students have been offered a scholarship, or have gotten good grades at all, if they aren’t able to pass what is supposed to be a basic test of one’s secondary education.
Before we jump on the students for not working, before we jump all over the teachers for not teaching, or before we even criticize the government for not providing sufficient funds, let’s step back and look at the bigger, even scarier picture. This picture frame contains everyone. This is the picture of the future, our community, the one that takes graduated students and molds them into well-rounded adults. If our seniors can’t pass a tenth grade test after being in school for twelve plus years, are they ready for the real world? What will the impact of these students be on our community now and in the future? Our futures are linked to their futures. Have we set them up for failure at the next level? The underlying and sad message being: our students have not been educated, and they’re supposed to be ready to graduate. In the end, these individual young minds have been cheated out of an education. “I think the parents have a right to sue the school system for not educating them properly,” said Rafael Arza, one of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation’s dominant voices on education policy.
If seniors can’t pass the FCAT, where did the school system go wrong? Are students getting grades fairly? Are they truly passing the grade level? If students were really passing, why were they not prepared for a tenth grade test once they arrived to tenth grade? Are teachers giving out A’s to students who don’t deserve them? Has cheating become so widespread that students can pass an entire grade level that way? Whatever the reason, the consequences are severe.
Before we play the blame game, the good news is these students are being stopped before they enter a world in which they are truly not prepared. The schools most affected are in minority communities. Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida NAACP, says, “It’s not the kid’s fault what kind of school he’s been in; that rests with the citizens of Florida throughout the legislature.” We are trying to turn things around before it’s too late.
Let this be a wake up call for all of us. Don’t let yourself be cheated out of an education. Because, in the end, you won’t be ready for what may matter the most…in this case, it’s the FCAT, but in reality…it’s life.