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  1. Education

Successful lawyer, father failed early version of FCAT

PALM HARBOR — The letter arrived during John G. Brady's junior year at Boca Ciega High School.

An A and B student on the football and weightlifting teams, Brady had failed a portion of the state's basic skills test, a precursor to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

An avid reader all his life, Brady had not shown on the test that he could use an apostrophe or figure out when to capitalize a noun. The state said he needed remedial work.

Brady's father, a police officer, wasn't buying it. "He thought this standardized test was telling him his son was functionally illiterate," Brady said. "He thought it was ridiculous."

So his father challenged the test.

In the late '70s, John F. Brady, now deceased, was one of the first to file suit against Florida's statewide assessment program. First he disputed the scoring system. Then he argued the testing criteria were arbitrary and unfair.

Brady, now 50, does not recall the details of the case. He just remembers getting ribbed at school because his name was in the newspaper. His friends laughed. "I was no stellar student, but I was a good student."

As the case traveled through a series of legal appeals until a final court upheld the state's right to give the test and deny students diplomas if they didn't pass it, Brady finished school. He graduated on time and can't remember doing any remedial work. He went to St. Petersburg College, served in the Marines and resumed his education at Saint Leo University.

Yes, he graduated college. And when a friend invited him to ride to Gainesville, where he was taking his law school entrance exam, Brady sat for the LSAT as well and got into Stetson University College of Law.

Today?

He's a lawyer. With a wife — "the world's best mother," he calls her — and three children. One lives in New York, after graduating from the International Baccalaureate program at Palm Harbor University High School and Northwestern University.

One is at the University of South Florida. And one plays baseball at East Lake High School.

Brady still likes to read — true crime, history novels and the novels of John Sanford.

He doesn't dwell much on that long-ago legal challenge. When his kids took the FCAT, he didn't give it much thought.

But that early lesson stuck, he said. "I know you can't always trust standardized tests to give an accurate picture of a student's abilities."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or sokol@tampabay.com.

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