A Florida teacher and his colleagues put together a version of Pharrell Williams' hit "Happy" to get students excited to take the FCAT.
If you have a kid in a Florida public school, you know it's FCAT season, that sometimes-pressurized time when schools administer the state's high-stakes standardized tests. Even if your child didn't tell you, their school certainly did, hosting pep rallies and parades and sending home reminders about testing schedules and the need for a healthy breakfast, a good night's sleep and a prompt arrival.
For many families, its a yearly event that, whether they dread it or shrug it off, they view as unavoidable as Florida' heat. But for a small but growing number of local parents, its a time to just say no.
Fed up with how Florida uses its high-stakes standardized test (to help evaluate students, teachers and schools), they are having their children skip the tests. We wrote about the Opt Out Orlando, founded by three local Moms, back in February.
Since then, more than 100 other people have joined the group's closed Facebook page, bringing membership to nearly 450. Not all are parents planning to skip FCAT, but all are interested in alternatives to high-stakes testing, the founders say.
They are part of a movement that has cropped up across the state and nation. This story, for example, highlights how a Lee County mother plans to opt out her fifth grader from FCAT this week.
That high-stakes nature of FCAT is apparent on Twitter, where posts this week (FCAT kicked off Monday in most Florida school districts) show a photo of an FCAT pep rally and tweets that read, "Wishing my baby girl the best of luck! #fcat" and "I'm not ready but I'll try. #fcat" and "morning going to be hell. #fcat."
Opting out, the local group's founders say, is not easy. State law says taking part in FCAT is "mandatory," and state educators argue the test results provide important information on students' academic progress.
School officials aren't eager to have children skip because the percentage of test takers can impact their school's A-to-F grade on the state's annual school report card. Some district officials have told parents that if they keep their children home during FCAT testing, they could run into problems under truancy laws -- and if their child comes to school but refuses to test, they could be forced to "sit and stare" while other kids take the exam.
The Opt Out founders this week detailed on their blog some options for families that could make opting out more doable -- though still a path of resistance.
Neither local school districts nor the Florida Department of Education tracks how many students have opted out, and it's likely the number remains a tiny fraction of the FCAT-eligible population, even as opt-out talk has grown more popular.
If you did opt out, or even considered it, we'd love to hear your story, if you care to share.