Boca Raton parents rebuff state education commissioner over FCATs

BOCA RATON, Fla. -  

Several parents came out to Boca Raton High School Friday night for a chance to ask the state's top education official about the FCAT testing system.
 
This comes a week after statewide writing scores disappointed many, and the Board of Education agreed to adjust the target so more students would get acceptable scores.
 
Nicole Ruskin's eighth grade daughter is a straight-A student, but sometimes she has trouble on test day.
 
"She gets nervous, so it could wind up where she has a five perfect score. It could wind up that she has a three. It depends on the day," said Ruskin.
 
That will change now, though, because Ruskin is enrolling her daughter in private school next year where FCAT's aren't required.
 
"I think private schools are going to look at the child as a whole," said Ruskin. "Private school is going to look at them, determine what their needs are, what public schools should be doing."
 
During state Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson's town hall meeting at Boca Raton High School Friday night, which was attended by about sixty people, he defended testing as an important skill.
 
He said students need it to succeed in college, and also asked what viable options there are to replace the FCAT.
 
"Why would we get away from assessing students to understand what they've learned and what they have not learned?" said Gerard.
 
Several parents told Robinson that scores have too much weight in determining a student's, teacher's, and a school's success. 
 
Some parents brought up an interesting point, saying the tests could inadvertently punish students who take advanced courses because the material on the test won't be fresh.
 
"They're being tested on information they learned the prior year, or two years ago," said one parent.
 
Some also said FCATs unnecessarily limit what subjects teachers have time to teach.
 
"I went to her and she said we don't have time to teach science. He'll get it next year because he's in fifth grade, because it's part of the FCAT. That's not well-rounded," said parent Kim Cooper.
 
The commissioner said he visited Boca Raton High School to find out what could be done differently.
 
A member of the state Board of Education who was on hand said that teaching well and testing well is a process that must evolve.
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