A Democratic lawmaker from South Florida wants to get rid of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, more commonly known as the FCAT, but her critics fear the alternative may be worse.
Tuesday afternoon, just as students from North Miami High School were getting out for the day, Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami Shores, publicly introduced her bill (HB 71) that would eliminate the FCAT and require the High School Competency Test (HSCT) to replace it for 10th-graders.
To be sure, legislators, parents and teachers from both sides of the aisle have taken issue with the FCAT. But an abrupt discontinuance of the test without a suitable alternative strikes some as potentially detrimental.
Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, Education Committee chairman, says the idea of removing the FCAT, which is administered in grades 3-11, and replacing it with one test in the 10th grade draws concerns.
"I'm not going to say the FCAT is a perfect test. There are no perfect tests," said Proctor in a telephone interview. "But it meets state standards and you've got to be able to demonstrate the material on the test is being taught.
"My concern would be if a student were falling behind. The quicker you can get that student up, the more problems you can prevent."
When challenged on the issue of measuring students earlier in their education, Campbell said she does believe in accountability, but that the FCAT is not the solution.
The Haitian-born lawmaker, who appeared with union members, delivered her speech in front of a gathering of reporters, blaming the FCAT for the fact that seniors in high school can't read and students are gravely deficient in civic education.
"The kids don't even know who is the governor. You gonna ask them who's the president. They don't know. They don't know nothing about social studies. They only know about FCAT and we need to stop that."
When pressed further on accountability for students before they reach the 10th grade, she said there might be a way to "go directly to the Board of Education and have them create a test for the grade levels, and let them determine if the student advances."
But Campbell's bill, which barely makes it past one page, has no mention of any other tests or assessments prior to HSCT.
Proctor says he has reservations about whether Campbell's plan meets the state's criteria as prescribed by the courts. But he's not the only one with concerns.
Miami-Dade School Board member Dr. Wilbert Holloway also recognizes problems with the FCAT, but says Campbell's bill may not be the right answer.
"That is not something I support," said Holloway. "But we are definitely looking at alternative assessment measures."
He did not mention any specifics.
Over the past several years, Democrats in the House and Senate have filed similar bills to eliminate the FCAT, but their attempts made little progress against the Republican majority. Campbell's bill is currently in K-20 competitiveness subcommittee in the House.
Lane Wright may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (561) 247-1063.