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FCAT Woes

A Florida mom is demanding the state let her see the questions and answers her autistic son got on his FCAT. Judy Castillo joins parents around the state who think they could help their children do better on the FCAT if they could see for themselves where the students had trouble. State education officials are fighting to keep the test information confidential.

Judy Castillo has an autistic nine-year-old son. She says he knows how to read, but he failed his FCAT because his disability prevents him from understanding certain phrases and concepts. Castillo says if she could just see the parts he got wrong, she'd know how to respond.

“It's a helpless feeling. I can help my child to learn how to read. I can help him overcome a disability, but I can't do anything about {this}. I don't even know what he missed,” says Castillo.

The Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform has been fighting the state Department of Education in court to let parents see their children's FCAT questions and answers, but while the case is under appeal, the state won't let them see the test information.

The state Department of Education says it reuses the questions year after year. It would cost too much to have to come up with new questions if it released the FCATs to the public. Gov. Jeb Bush says having to change the test every year would run into the millions of dollars.

“I would think there are ways to alleviate their concerns, to make sure the test was graded properly or whatever, without showing them the questions. I'll continue to oppose that. It's in the courts right now and I hope we win,” says Gov. Bush.

But members of the coalition say they're not giving up. Although FCAT protests have become practically a weekly occurrence around Florida, the group's president says sometimes, that's what it takes.

"We will keep coming back, we will keep telling the truth, we will keep listing the harms and ills of the FCAT."

The group believes more parents might have faith in the FCAT if they could see their child's test for themselves. Oral arguments in the case over whether parents should be able to see FCAT questions and answers are set for September 18 in the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the meantime, the Coalition for Assessment Reform has sent a letter to Gov. Bush and education commissioner Jim Horne, asking them to release the information.


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