FCAT may force creative combinations

Published May 30, 2007

TAMPA - Hillsborough high school students who failed the FCAT could get to take remedial reading in a music class next year.

School Board members on Tuesday night brainstormed ways to meet a state requirement to give remediation to struggling students, without forcing them to give up elective classes.

The vision: teach FCAT subjects during physical education. Consider a math review woven into a music class. Integrate reading into career prep.

"Remediation is important, but when you take away all the fun stuff, there's no reason for students to be there, " board member Candy Olson said.

Principals already are starting to look into which classes could be infused with FCAT reading and math reviews, said Michael Grego, assistant superintendent for curriculum. He expects the first such classes to roll out in the fall.

In recent years, the state has ramped up the requirements for remedial study when students don't perform at their grade level on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The remedial classes cut into time that students would have for electives.

Remedial reading is becoming an especially big presence on campuses. This year, just 42 percent of ninth-graders and 36 percent of sophomores in Hillsborough met the state's expectations on the FCAT reading exam.

As school officials look for new outlets to review the subjects, board member Doretha Edgecomb doesn't want to see remedial classes get a bad reputation.

"Those teachers who teach the remedial courses work hard to make them relevant, " she said. "They aren't all dull, or deadly or boring."

In other business, the board reappointed Michael Donohue as principal at Erwin Technical Center.

It also hired John Franklin, director of transportation for schools in San Antonio, Texas, to oversee Hillsborough's school busing operation.

Letitia Stein can be reached at lstein @sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.