For awhile in mid-April, I entertained myself by reminding journalists who were writing epitaphs for the FCAT that the Science FCAT’s at the 5th and 8th grade levels would continue to next year and beyond. I thought it was sort of funny that reporters would make such a mistake, and at least John O’Connor at State Impact Florida accepted the criticism with good humor. Sorry. Ha ha. Fine.
Something less funny happened a few days ago. A top-of-the-line first-rate middle school science teacher was celebrating the end of the FCAT, including the 8th grade Science FCAT. She shared that her Principal had told her that the FCAT was completely over, including science. I had to correct her, and sought (and received) confirmation from several authorities she would recognize. I left the teacher with the task of correcting her Principal.
Now I’m worried that maybe there are more Principals out there making the same mistake.
It’s true that the 8th grade Science FCAT retreated somewhat during this spring’s legislative session. Florida’s previous school grading system provided an incentive for middle schools to offer students the high school Biology 1 course, along with the accompanying statewide standardized Biology 1 end-of-course exam. In my home county, Leon County, nearly all the middle schools steered their stronger students into the high school Biology 1 course in 8th grade (and away from taking the middle school physical science course, so that these strong students leave 8th grade without knowing anything about forces, motion, energy or even density. Gah.) These middle school students taking the Biology end-of-course exam were allowed by the state to skip the 8th grade Science FCAT, but schools were allowed to require such students to take both exams. Some schools did require their strong students to take both, mostly to boost school grades that depend in part on the Science FCAT scores. It was at least a weak thread of accountability for punishing schools that denied their strong students an opportunity to learn physical science.
The Florida Legislature has now solved this “problem”. A middle school student who takes the Biology 1 end-of-course exam is no longer allowed to take the 8th grade Science FCAT.
But there will still be an 8th grade Science FCAT in 2015. And one at the 5th grade level, too.