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Students get back on the learning track

With the latest round of the FCAT behind them, teachers - as well as students - are breathing more easily.

By DONNA WINCHESTER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001


Pinellas County teachers and students breathed a collective sigh of relief last week as another round of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test ended. Fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders had taken the writing portion of the test Feb. 21. Third- through 10th-graders took the reading and mathematics sections March 12-15.

Amy Hurlbert's fourth-graders at Bear Creek Elementary started a poetry unit March 19. Intern April Heffernan said the students were happy to be doing something creative after concentrating for months on expository and narrative writing to prepare for the FCAT.

"Ms. Hurlbert was good about preparing the kids, so they were low-key going into the test. But they're looking forward to spring break," she said. "It seems like a long time since the last break."

Adrianne Bertrand, a fifth-grade teacher at Perkins Elementary Center for the Arts and International Studies, said there was relief in her classroom after the long and tedious test process.

"We're excited to get back to the academic area," she said. "Kids aren't excited about testing. They're excited about learning."

At Pasadena Fundamental School, principal Michael Marckese said the atmosphere was tense until testing was over. He said that because teachers want their students to do well, they put a great deal of pressure on themselves. They feel added pressure because they are responsible for test security, which has become a "mammoth workload."

"We're very high-strung until the test is over, boxed, sealed and picked up," he said. "The tests are packed in special boxes, sealed with special tape, stored in special rooms that are double-locked with special keys. All of those things feels like we're dealing with the gold in Fort Knox. It's a very tough time."

Madeira Beach Middle School principal Brenda Poff said that the combination of post-test week mental exhaustion and enthusiasm for spring break made for an interesting week.

"We're all relieved to have it over," she said. "The kids found it to be quite rigorous and strenuous. They had their work cut out for them."

Jeanette Modlin, a 10th-grade English teacher at St. Petersburg High School, said some of her students found the test harder than they had thought it would be and came away from it worried that they didn't do well. Others found it easier than they had expected.

"Most of them took it in stride, so there wasn't much change in attitude," she said. "They came back Monday asking, "What chapter are we on now?' "

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