FCAT Reform

Some Florida lawmakers believe you should have the right to see the questions your child gets wrong on the FCAT, as well as his or her answers. They've filed a bill called "The Parent's Right to Know Act”, but the state wants to keep those questions and answers private.

The paperwork from Judy Castillo failed legal battle to see her son's FCAT questions and answers is nearly a foot thick. Castillo's son Jordan is autistic, and she thought reviewing his tests would help her understand why he failed and how to help him.

“Did my child miss the question because he didn't understand a vocabulary word, because the syntax of the sentence was different than he anticipated? Is it because he didn't understand the skill of prediction or cause and effect? Who knows? Unless you can actually see what the question is to see how your child is thinking,” says Judy.

Castillo eventually dropped her suit to put her efforts behind changing the law. Instead, she joined a group pushing for parents' access to the FCAT.

Sen. Gary Siplin says the current system of just finding out whether your child passed or failed and general areas where he needs help isn't enough.

“Thirteen thousand seniors didn't graduate with a diploma. Forty thousand third graders did not go to the fourth grade and it's a big issue in our community. I think that kids should be able to see what they've done wrong so then parents can help them correct it,” says Sen. Siplin.

The Department of Education says allowing parents to see the FCAT questions would mean they'd have to come up with all new questions every year, and that would cost Florida taxpayers too much money, plus, says Jim Warford, you can't teach the test.

“If a parent wants to help their child on FCAT, the best thing that they can do, as I did, is to make sure their child is doing their work in all of their subjects regularly and to monitor their performance,” Warford says.

But FCAT critics say it just isn't that simple and they plan to continue their fight this spring at the capitol. The State Department of Education says it would cost $10 million to change the test every year if it were required to hand out questions and answers.