Pic by kevin dooley, via Flickr

This week, Florida students will take part in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, known as the FCAT, a cornerstone of outcome-based education, strongly promoted by Florida GOP leaders since the late 1990s.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that “Florida’s testing season kicks into high gear Monday, marking a springtime tradition for 2.2 million students in public school,” adding that “this year brings more changes, and more pressure, than usual.”

The Sun Sentinel noted that “FCAT scores are used to make class assignments, decide students’ promotion and graduation, and grade each school. And now under a new state law, the scores will help evaluate teachers.”

The Sun Sentinel also added that, “most significantly, the scoring system used this year for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test will be tougher — meaning marks are expected to drop.”

Fund Education Now, which opposes the FACT and high-stakes standardized testing, wrote Monday that “parents and teachers across Florida must realize that when children who have been receiving a 5 or 4 turn up with a 3, it is not their fault. When a child who normally gets a 3 turns up with a 1, please understand that this was deliberately done by Florida officials.”

“Florida politicians voted this year to make D schools eligible for takeover by for-profit charter school developers,” Fund Education Now added.

The Florida Alliance for Charter Schools and the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools both promote the creation of more charter schools.

During the most recent legislative session, the Florida Alliance for Charter Schools actively supported the so-called “Parent Trigger” bill, which included language to allow parents to petition to use turnaround models or options for failing public schools, which includes converting them to privately managed charter schools. The Parent Trigger passed in the Florida House but died in the Senate.

The Florida Charter School Alliance’s board of directors includes Jim Horne, former Florida education commissioner and president of the Horne Group; John Kirtley, the Florida corporate tax credit scholarship program founder; and Jeb Bush’s education foundation’s executive director, Patricia Levesque.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that promotes “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, and the federal government,” wrote a model “Parent Trigger” bill.

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools has on staff former GOP state Rep. Ralph Arza. The Consortium’s board treasurer is Fernando Zulueta, president of Academica, a private firm that currently manages 80 charter schools in Florida.

State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who voted to support the Parent Trigger Bill, is the brother-in-law of Zulueta, who, according to The Miami Herald, has given “$150,000 in campaign donations to Tallahassee lawmakers and political committees through real-estate companies they control since 2007, state election records show. The Zulueta family has donated a further $75,000 in the past five years, and Academica executives and school contractors donated a further $54,000, records show.”

The Herald also reported that last year Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, was offered a job to run a college proposed by Academica. Flores also voted in favor of the “Parent Trigger” bill.

According to Fund Education Now:

  • 56% of all students taking FCAT 2.0 will receive a 1 or 2 and fail
  • 10th graders must make a 3 on FCAT and pass Algebra I to receive a high school diploma
  • Algebra I End of Course exam had less than a 40% pass rate during “pre-test analysis” at highest performing high schools
  • Regardless of GPA, students who score a 2 or lower on FCAT 2.0 will be forced into expensive, time consuming remediation
  • Remediation means loss of access to elective courses – band, art, drama, music, etc.
  • School grades will drop, affecting property values and leaving schools vulnerable to hostile corporate takeover
  • The unrelenting labeling of students, schools and communities as failures has long term economic and human consequences
  • Every child, including third graders, must sign an oath pledging not to cheat on FCAT 2.0.
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