It was sort of funny, actually. Yesterday, State Impact Florida proclaimed the passing of the FCAT, complete with an illustration of a gravestone. I responded to their tweet advertising their post by pointing out that their statement was incorrect, that in fact the Science FCAT, which is given to 5th and 8th graders, is scheduled to continue indefinitely. I had a little fun, comparing the Science FCAT to zombies and – later in the day – sending a tweet that included a link to the Monty Python “I’m not dead yet” skit. Eventually State Impact Florida acknowledged that indeed the Science FCAT would continue on, and they were kind enough to attribute the correction to me.
Meanwhile, the national education news outlet Real Clear Education picked up the State Impact Florida FCAT death notice, but never corrected it. It just didn’t seem important enough, I suppose.
The neglect of science education news is hardly surprising, given the disappearance of science literacy and the science and engineering pipeline from Florida’s education agenda. The focus on Common Core standards in math and English language arts and the new AIR Florida assessments (or is it AIR Utah?) has driven the fact that Florida’s science standards need some serious attention from everybody’s minds. The hot new STEM field is computer programming, which is an important technological tool for students to learn but is not science and not math (despite national efforts to replace science and math requirements for high school graduation with programming courses). Florida’s revised school grading scheme, which eliminates bonus points for students who take multiple AP courses, will remove an incentive for schools to properly serve their top quartile students, as did the suspension of class size limits for advanced high school courses several years ago. The state’s “scholar” high school diploma option remains terribly underpowered in science and math. You can still earn a scholar diploma without taking precalculus or physics, a situation that makes no sense in our new technological society.
Even the new AP physics courses, which may be the single most important tool we can implement to improve the science and engineering pipeline in Florida’s schools, fell into a black hole for a year. This left parents, students, teachers and administrators wondering if Florida’s colleges and universities would even grant useful credits for the courses or whether they would fall into the same never-never land that AP Environmental Science occupies. Florida is a leader in involving more students in AP courses, as long as they aren’t calculus or science courses.
As far as science literacy and the science and engineering pipeline go, it doesn’t matter that there are 17 days left in the legislative session. For all practical purposes, the session was over a long time ago.