Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Letters

To my fifth-grade students, I'm sorry


Published:   |   Updated: April 24, 2014 at 06:00 PM

I’d like to make a public apology. I’d like to apologize to my fifth-grade students. I’m sorry that for the six years you’ve been in school, you’ve had the FCAT looming over your head.

I’m sorry that when you were just 8 years old in third grade, you had your entire year of work summed up by the state on a two-day test. I’m sorry that I’ve had to postpone work in the classroom to take test after test in order to supposedly predict how you will do on the FCAT.

I’m sorry that you’ve had the pressure of trying to get a specific score on the test when they change how they grade the test each year. I’m sorry that you’ve had to be tested on the Florida Sunshine State Standards this year, even though we’ve been learning on the new Common Core Standards, because I really have tried to make sure everything was covered. I’m so sorry that you have been taught that your educational worth is based on one flawed test.

I’d like to be able to tell my students that the worst is behind them and that now that the FCAT is finally in its last year, that the State of Florida has finally decided to put students first and stop the obsession with standardized testing. I’d like to be able to tell them that when they move on to sixth grade that they will finally be able to spend every day in class actually learning instead of taking some test that has been prescribed by either the state or county office. Yet, if I told them any of those things, it would be a lie.

To those who aren’t in the world of education, please talk to a teacher. Ask them about how their pay will be tied to test scores next year. Ask a kindergarten teacher about how their pay is based on the testing performances of the 6-year-olds in their class. Ask a teacher about how their pay is based on their students overcoming stress, test anxiety, laziness, varying ability issues and performing on a test over the course of two days. Ask a teacher who gives FCAT about how many days they lose to testing. Ask a teacher who doesn’t teach FCAT about how they get pulled from their room to help proctor the test (which then causes their students to lose educational time). Ask an administrator about the juggle of scheduling to ensure that all students get tested on time and in a quiet space. And then ask your legislators if they support standardized testing and why. If they say anything about “measuring teachers’ success,” then you will know right away that they aren’t interested in what is best for the students of Florida.

FCAT may be going away, but testing obsession and over use isn’t. And for that, my dear students, I’m sorry.

Melinda Barrett is a Brooksville resident who teaches at Spring Hill Elementary.

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