Monday, November 20, 2017
Education

State education chief gets an earful about FCAT and testing scores

RECOMMENDED READING


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 [email protected], (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Comments
10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

Associated PressThe latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African-Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before. The Rhodes Tr...
Published: 11/19/17

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

BROOKSVILLE — The lab at Eastside Elementary School looks high tech, featuring new flooring, cabinets and furniture. Assistant Principal Michael Lastra calls it cutting edge."It’s not like your typical classroom," Lastra said. "The school wanted it t...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Plans to erase the attendance boundaries for Ridgewood High School have grabbed all the attention.But the Pasco County school district also has proposed changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones for consideration this fall.They’re just ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

ST. PETERSBURG — The athletic facilities at St. Petersburg High are just like Bob Carter remembers from 50 years ago.He recalls it all fondly: The concession stands, ticket booths and bathrooms are still the same. The track is still outdated asphalt,...
Published: 11/15/17
In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

TAMPA — Robert Ryan cleaned out his office in May. He knew he was dying.He had kept driving to the University of South Florida even as he lost the use of his left arm. He had kept teaching English, even as tumors ravaged his mouth so that he could ha...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

The kids at Bing Elementary knew something special was about to happen when a six-foot white dog with a "target" over his right eye walked into the classroom.And they were right.On Tuesday (Nov. 14), volunteers and corporate supporters joined the Hil...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

DADE CITY — Dustin Snodgrass has a photograph of himself as a child in the pilot’s seat of a kid-size model airplane. Snodgrass, now 28, recently took a big step toward his goal of flying real aircraft with his first solo flight through a new profess...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

TAMPA — A weeks-long salary standoff between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers hit an emotional peak Tuesday as hundreds of teachers and students turned out to ask the School Board for their promised raises."War has been declar...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/15/17
Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

When it comes to your principles, there is no shame in putting up a fight.You can fight City Hall, and you can fight the power. According to the song, you can fight the law. You can even fight the good fight, whatever that means.But you cannot fight ...
Published: 11/14/17