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Rep. Cynthia Stafford
member, Florida House Education Committee
FCAT fiasco jeopardized Florida’s economic recovery

This month's FCAT fiasco in Tallahassee is eroding any remaining shred of confidence the public may have had in Florida's misguided public school accountability system.

Relied upon since 1999, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which was designed to be merely a diagnostic tool for educators, is being radically misused. I believe that increasing rigor in education testing is appropriate, but Florida's over-reliance on the FCAT is not the right approach. The state Board of Education under Governor Rick Scott has made the FCAT harder and has ramped up the passing score in every subject area, including math, reading and science, as well as writing. But what they and Republican legislative leaders have failed to do is provide the necessary funding to help students meet these higher standards.

Florida's formula of artificial test standards plus low funding equals failure. Parents and business leaders know that without proper funding, Florida schools will struggle. While the Department of Education has been busy making the FCAT more difficult for students to achieve an acceptable score, our education budget has declined to $2.1 billion less than it was just five years ago. Democrats in the Florida House of Representatives like myself believe the right formula is better pay for well-deserving teachers and less emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests like the FCAT.

The theater created by the state is fueling a grass-roots movement by parents’ groups to get every Florida school district to pass a resolution condemning the use of high stakes tests to determine how students, teachers and schools perform. I hope the effort succeeds and will be a wake-up call to Governor Scott and Republican legislative leaders.

Florida's misguided accountability system based on one high-stakes test is hurting students, teachers, and schools, and it will jeopardize Florida's economic recovery.

Rep. Cynthia Stafford is a Democrat from Miami. She sits on the House Education Committee and the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

by Dr. Radut.