MIAMI — Saying the FCAT creates more harm than good, a freshman state legislator said Tuesday she's championing a bill in the House that would do away with the annual state exams.
But, kids, don't get your hopes up — it's not the first time a bill has been introduced in the state legislature trying to end the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. And each time legislation has failed.
Still, state Rep. Daphne Campbell is not deterred.
"There's too much pressure on parents, students and teachers," Campbell said outside North Miami Senior High School Tuesday afternoon to promote her bill. "The bottom line is the FCAT is not helping."
Campbell, a Democratic state representative for District 108, which includes North Miami, filed House Bill 71 in an effort to replace the FCATs with the High School Competency Test.
That test was used from 1990 to 2000 in Florida as a requirement for graduation. It was given to sophomores to ensure they could perform at an eighth-grade level.
"There was no pressure like there is for the FCAT," Campbell said.
But proponents say the FCAT has given teachers a way — if imperfect — to measure students' year-to-year progress and to compare student achievement across the state.
Miami-Dade School Board member Wilbert Holloway said he believes the state needs to take another look at an accountability exam, but does not agree with going back to the other test.
"Children don't come in a one-size-fits-all model," he said. "There needs to be a better way to hold the children accountable for what they learn."
Tom Butler, press secretary for the Florida Department of Education, said the FCAT has improved statewide standards.
"Since the establishment of the current system, we have seen dramatic increases in our academic performance, especially among minority and other underrepresented students," Butler wrote in an e-mail.
Campbell said she agrees there needs to be accountability, but says too many students are failing out of school because they cannot pass the exam.
North Miami sophomore Monique Roberts, 15, said the FCAT doesn't test what students really learn. "It's like the test comes out of nowhere," she said.
The FCAT tests in reading and math from third to 10th grade. There are science tests in grades 5, 8, and 11 and writing exams for students in grades 4, 8 and 10.
Criticisms over the years have led the state to make tweaks to the 12-year-old FCATs such as more rigorous math and reading exams.
Now, the state is moving toward end of course exams for some high school classes, and new more rigorous FCATs are being used in the elementary and middle school level.