Students at Hagen Road Elementary given placebos in attempt to raise FCAT scores

Students given FCAT 'power bar'

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - At least one South Florida campus is hoping that feeding students a "special brain snack" will trick them into thinking it will boost their FCAT performance.

From skydiving to mohawk hair cuts, school principals have tried various stunts to pump up test scores. The latest? Administrators at Hagen Road Elementary want kids to think eating an "FCAT power bar" will guarantee great results on the exams — starting Tuesday — in the same way the " placebo effect" allows medical patients to swallow sugar pills as fake treatments to spark healing.

Robert De Gennaro, a teacher and lead union representative, said he expects plenty of "dirty tricks" to be forced on teachers whose paychecks increasingly depend on student test scores.

"If you were given a choice between your salary and hoodwinking kids, which would you choose?" he asked.

Richard Hughes, principal of the school west of Boynton Beach, was not on campus Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Hagen Road Elementary's placebo is an apple-flavored cereal bar, with the label: "Warning: Improves Writing Power!"

The writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a 45-minute essay, will be given statewide, for fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders. The reading, math and science sections follow in April.

Broward testing chief Paul Houchens says his district simply promotes a healthy breakfast.

"It's a lot easier to test on a full stomach," he said.

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