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The FCAT made us do it

By Ron Matus
Published February 1, 2007


For years, state Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, has been a leading critic of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, better known as the FCAT. But in a legislative committee meeting last month, she took FCAT blasting to new oratorical heights. The issue at hand was a bill that would allow local school boards to start the school year earlier in high schools that offer Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment programs with colleges. Wilson blamed the push for earlier starting dates squarely on the FCAT. Here is a transcript of Wilson's remarks and a response from the committee chairman, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. Ron Matus, Times staff writer

Wilson: I think it's important for us to note, as I said before, we all had September beginning dates. And we all had June ending dates. But with the onset of high-stakes testing in the state of Florida, the FCAT, we now have to understand that that particular entity decides when children will go to school, when families will take vacations, how much money people will spend from their college savings to send their children to private school, how much money they will take from their college savings to send their children to Huntington Learning Centers for tutoring so they can pass the FCAT. It even determines how much our teachers will earn, it determines what time school closes, when the school day ends. It decides who will have music, art, physical education, and who will not. It decides who will take a trip to the zoo, who can take a trip to the farm, the aquarium, and who will not. Who will have six hours of academics and no electives and who will not. Who can play basketball and who will not. Who can join the Boy Scouts and who can't. Who can play in the band. Who can be a majorette and who can't. Who will have a nervous breakdown and who can't. Who will have a future and who won't. And who will go to prison and who won't. And that is how the FCAT has infused itself into the . . . lives of families in this state.

Gaetz: Thank you, Sen. Wilson. We know that, with all due respect, that, Sen. Wilson, all roads lead to the FCAT. In a world of uncertainty, where many things ebb and flow, values sometimes are challenged, we know with Sen. Wilson, that her opposition to the FCAT is the north star upon which we can all count on. Is there further debate on the bill?

Ron Matus can be reached at (727) 893-8873 or matus@sptimes.com

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