F-CAT and Mouse Game

F-CAT has become a household word in Florida, one that can evoke fear, anxiety, even disgust. For some students it's just another test. For others it's the test of a lifetime.

But how do those at the front of the class feel about the F-CAT? Teacher Paula Martin has made her home at the front of the classroom for thirty- two years. For the last fourteen, she's taught math at Raa Middle School.

"As a teacher I've been giving standardized test for ever, ever and ever. The main difference between F-CAT and other test is the high stakes that go with," she says.

Opponents say the F-CAT is an example of testing where students work under the pressure of punishment or rewards. The punishment, being held back a year in school. The reward, money for schools.

The F-CAT’s purpose is to measure student achievement based on the sunshine state standards adopted in 1996.

"I have no major problems with the F-Cat which probably sounds like something people aren't ready to hear," Paula says.

Raa Middle School Principal, Donna Callaway, says the F-CAT provides incentive for students to excel in 3 areas, reading, writing and arithmetic, the benchmarks of the sunshine state standards.

"The F-CAT in itself is probably not bad. I think what the F-cat is used for could be adversely affecting our students and families."

Leon county school member, Fred Varn, says accountability is important to the public school system, but the pressure of the f-cat can break down that system. When the principals are expected to produce "A" schools, teachers are expected to produce "A” students and the district is expected to have "A" schools, topping it off by throwing money in the mix.

"Money is an evil motivator, when you attach money to the test it changes whole mental structure of teacher, school principal and everyone else," states Fred.

Yet, Principal Callaway says before the F-CAT, there wasn't a complete package for parents to identify their child's weaknesses and strengths.

"I think it should be applauded rather than talked about as a negative thing," she says.

Back to the original question, is the F-CAT high stakes testing or a positive accountability tool? It appears to be both.