Do or die
No two ways about it, this year is a make or break one for dozens of schools around Florida and the country. It's the fifth year of No Child Left Behind sanctions, meaning a huge number of schools that don't make "adequate yearly progress" for the fifth straight year under the law could face "restructuring" in 2008-09.
What does that mean? If kids don't do well enough on the FCAT, their schools could lose their staff, get taken over by the state or be converted to less heavily regulated charter schools, among the tougher options. And it doesn't matter if the state rates the schools an A or an F, or if they met 97 percent of the criteria for AYP.
"It just shows the total misalignment of (Florida's) A-plus and No Child Left Behind," Palm Beach superintendent Art Johnson told the Palm Beach Post.
Florida has created rules that would impose less stringent penalties on the A and B schools. But penalties still would go into effect.
A second Palm Beach Post story today suggests that the state's poorest schools are the ones that face the most significant changes.
Perhaps most important is how schools react to this information. Some districts, like Palm Beach, have "turned off" their curriculum for test prep leading to the FCAT. Others, like Broward, have forsaken "FCAT frenzy" in favor of a more low key approach. It's a question, one Pasco principal told the Gradebook, of whether you want to teach kids testing skills or academic skills.
It will be enlightening to see which philosophy leads to better results.
The FCAT writing exam begins Feb. 12, and the rest of the test starts March 12.