Florida Principals Ask for Sweeping Changes to FCAT

A new study shows most want to keep the Student Assessment Test, but they also think the state should make major changes.

More than 400 school principals responded to the survey of what they liked and didn’t like about the FCAT.

Jon Mills is president of the liberal think tank that produced the study. He says the biggest gripe is over the reward money that goes to schools that do well on FCAT, usually schools in good neighborhoods.

Jon Mills says, "I guess that shows that they think while the rich get richer in the system, that the poor need help too."

Principals also said they worry students no longer get enough class time in subjects not covered by FCAT, like geography. They want the test tightened up so it doesn’t stretch out over two weeks, and principals want the state to be more flexible for English as a second language and special ed students.

Department of Education K-12 Chancellor Cheri Yecke says FCAT has evolved with additional accommodations for students with disabilities, for example.

Cheri Yecke says, "It’s important for the public to know, I believe, that what we have is a quality measure of student academic achievement. That being said, we continually look at ways to make it better."

Yecke defends the reward money. She says it’s a powerful incentive for schools to work hard, and it doesn’t take away from the millions struggling districts get to help improve.
Bottom line, while FCAT remains the test educators love to hate, it’s also become a model for the rest of the nation.

FCAT is approaching its eighth year in Florida schools this spring.