State education chief gets an earful about FCAT and testing scores

Florida's education chief said he wanted to have a spirited discussion about the state's testing system -- and he got it Wednesday night. Parents, teachers and community members gave Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson an earful about the FCAT, new end-of-course exams for high school students and last week's dramatic decline in student writing scores. "I'm sick of the FCAT for many reasons and I urge you to get rid of it," said Sarah Robinson, mother of an eighth-grader in Pinellas County. She said art, music, physical education and field trips had all been "sacrificed on the altar of the FCAT." Cynthia Shellabarger, mother of a fourth-grader in Hillsborough County, said teachers weren't given enough information about changes to the scoring of the state's writing test. "They've been teaching these students to write about apples and then they're graded on oranges," she said. The commissioner heard from about 60 people at his first "Conversations with the Commissioner" event at Hillsborough Community College. The public forum was billed as an opportunity for parents, teachers and community members to discuss education. But state education officials said they expected testing to be the focus because of the rapid roll-out this year of more rigorous assessments and last week's drop in writing scores. The education commissioner also is scheduled to do more public forums, with the second on Friday in Boca Raton. Several events also are in the works for next week in Jacksonville. On Wednesday, Robinson, who was flanked by Kathleen Shanahan, chairwoman of the state Board of Education, repeated that it's important for the state to measure student learning. "The FCAT is important, (end-of-course) exams are important," he said.


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