Broward News

2,026 Broward Seniors Fail Last Chance at FCAT

I can't find any stats on how many high school seniors attend school in Broward County, but since the school district counts 257,000 students in all 13 grades, figure it's fewer than 20,000. With that number of seniors, it might be OK that more than 2,000 seniors failed to pass the FCAT -- the tenth-grade FCAT, that is -- and cannot now proceed to college, if only Florida, like every other state in the union, hadn't traded in actual education for constant, useless test crammage.

But we have, and now we've gotta figure that our efforts were for naught. We devoted our education budget to turning kids into FCAT-acing machines, and 10 percent still couldn't hack it.

A prescient person might have predicted this. In December, I reported the happy news that the Florida Department of Education's new school school grading guidelines had bumped the marks of Broward schools across the board. "C" schools became "B" schools, "B" schools became "A" schools, etc. (These are the grades used by the state to determine which schools ought to be showered with money and which ones need a good disciplinary squeezing.) I also reported that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 32 percent of Florida's high school seniors were "proficient in reading." Which is just a nice way of saying that 68 percent were illiterate.

An imaginative educator might have looked at these stats and realized that the admirable marks earned by our schools via the new grading guidelines were a mirage and that the perception that our kids' educations were improving by the year couldn't be maintained indefinitely. Tweak the grading system, teach to the test, do whatever -- it doesn't matter a whit if the kids can't read.

Ever taken an FCAT, by the way? Try it, just to see what it's like. It oughtn't take you long. When you're through, please consider that the seniors who failed the FCAT this year had already taken the test up to four times during their high school careers and never managed to pass. They can take it again as adults, if they choose. Till then, their educations are on hold.

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Brandon K. Thorp