Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State education chief gets an earful about FCAT and testing scores

TAMPA — Florida's education chief said he wanted to have a spirited discussion about the state's testing system — and he got it Wednesday night.

Parents, teachers and community members gave Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson an earful about the FCAT, new end-of-course exams for high school students and last week's dramatic decline in student writing scores.

"I'm sick of the FCAT for many reasons and I urge you to get rid of it," said Sarah Robinson, mother of an eighth-grader in Pinellas County.

She said art, music, physical education and field trips had all been "sacrificed on the altar of the FCAT."

Cynthia Shellabarger, mother of a fourth-grader in Hillsborough County, said teachers weren't given enough information about changes to the scoring of the state's writing test.

"They've been teaching these students to write about apples and then they're graded on oranges," she said.

The commissioner heard from about 60 people at his first "Conversations with the Commissioner" event at Hillsborough Community College. The public forum was billed as an opportunity for parents, teachers and community members to discuss education. But state education officials said they expected testing to be the focus because of the rapid roll-out this year of more rigorous assessments and last week's drop in writing scores.

To get their message out to frustrated parents, the state launched Monday a call center, websites, and a designated email address, all for parents.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 1,500 people had dialed into the FCAT call center. About 2,800 "unique visitors" had visited the parent website over a two-day period and about 100 parents emailed, the state Department of Education said.

The education commissioner also is scheduled to do more public forums, with the second on Friday in Boca Raton. Several events also are in the works for next week in Jacksonville.

On Wednesday, Robinson, who was flanked by Kathleen Shanahan, chairwoman of the state Board of Education, repeated that it's important for the state to measure student learning.

"The FCAT is important, (end-of-course) exams are important," he said.

He said students need to have a skill set to ensure success at college. Shanahan agreed: "Do we want to have our kids graduate from high school and compete in a global world?"

That message resonated with some in the audience. Julius Newton, a retired college professor, said too many students arrive in college without the reading comprehension skills to succeed there.

"Standards should be enhanced for our students to compete," he said.

Others said that testing had taken the place of teaching.

"We were told that these tests would never be used against our kids. They're used every day against our kids," said Jeanie Parrish, of Hillsborough County.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at, (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

State education chief gets an earful about FCAT and testing scores 05/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 24, 2012 12:07am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who's behind the mysterious butt graffiti all over St. Petersburg?

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first butts, perhaps, appeared in April on some steps behind the Sundial shopping plaza.

    A photo of the butt graffiti that has been cropping up around St. Petersburg in the past several months. [CHRISTOPHER SPATA | STAFF]
  2. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money


    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  3. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses


    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  4. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning


    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  5. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.