A weekend interview with Martisha Jones, a Pasco Gulf High senior who struggled with the FCAT
Martisha Jones, a Gulf High School senior, learned she had passed her exit-level FCAT exam just days before her June 4 graduation ceremony. She spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about her thoughts on testing, school and her feelings as she waited to get her results.
What were you thinking before you got it? How were you feeling?
Oh, I felt like I didn't pass it. I was really just hoping for the best but prepared for the worst, basically.
What was it that made you feel like you weren't going to get there?
I don't know. Because I hadn't passed it and I felt like I did good on it all the time, every time I took the test. And I just felt like, I feel I did good on it, hopefully I did good. Worse comes to worse, so ...
And what was it that was holding you up? Was it the math? Was it the reading?
It was the reading.
What about it is tough?
Just the fact that it's FCAT and you know you have to pass it to graduate. It's more the pressure than the test.
So what do they do? They give you a piece of paper and say, Here are your scores, now open your eyes?
No. I got a call from my guidance counselor. She had it. I guess they got them off the computer. ... She goes, 'You got a 312 on your FCAT.' I said, 'I got what?' She said, 'You got a 312.' I screamed. I was in the laundromat, too. Everybody was looking at me. I was screaming. I was jumping up and down. All that. I was excited. Yes.
Was this your only holdback to graduation?
Yep. Just the FCAT. I had all my grades, all my credits. I have everything prepared for college - community service hours, all of that. This was the only thing that was holding me back. And I haven't passed FCAT since I moved down here in like third grade. So I was in like special classes to help and all that stuff. It was just a relief, actually.
Now that you have passed it, congratulations. Look at the smile on your face. It's awesome.
(Smiles wide and laughs) Thank you.
You couldn't be any happier, right?
No. I couldn't. Not at all.
What are your plans?
I'm going to go to college. I'm going to go to SPC for a year and then I'm probably going to train for a year in basketball and be a walk-on at a university somewhere. Do something big. I can do that now.
So you're a basketball player here?
Yep. All four years I was a varsity basketball player.
What were you thinking about when you were seeing that graduation is about two weeks away. You've taken this thing six times already ...
You said you took the ACT.
I took them twice. I got a 12 the first time and I got a 14 the second time. I missed it by 1 point. I was going to take it again June 12. I'm still going to take it June 12. I was going to try to pass with a 15. But now my ACT is strictly for college.
Were you worried that at graduation you were going to be walking across the stage ...
Without my diploma? Yes I was. That was like my main focus, not getting my high school diploma.
What did that mean to you, knowing you might not get that high school diploma?
It meant that I had to do a lot more. I was thinking about doing the GED test after high school so I could go to college. And I was thinking about coming back to take the FCAT again. I was going to take my ACT in June. So I had a plan B.
So what's the celebration going to be?
Walking across that stage. Yep. Everybody's going to know that I passed that FCAT.
What did you have to do to get to this point?
Come to school.
Was that a big problem?
So coming to school, being awake in class.
Paying attention, really. A lot of the stuff Ms. (Deanna) Waide did teach did help me, like writing on the side, taking notes. Sometimes I would scan questions before. I've been in intensive reading since whenever.
Did you ever think that was something horrible?
Yes. I did. I hated being in intensive reading. oh. It was such a drag. I could have been doing something else instead of being in this class. Something else that might help me in college. Like I could have taken another math, or something like that with math, so that way when I get to college I don't have to be in alternative math.
So do you think they should change the system? Do you like the idea that they're moving toward more of these end of course exams and away from this exit-level FCAT?
Yeah. I think it's better. It's a little bit less pressure. It depends on how they format the tests.
Anything else you want to share?
It's exciting. And I'm happy that I passed FCAT. It just proves to myself and to everybody else that it's possible to do this.