There is one voice rarely heard in the screaming debate about the role of high-stakes tests in education: that of students.
Though the big focus today in education is on evaluating teachers and whether student standardized test results should be a part of educator assessment (they shouldn’t), there is no group more affected by high stakes on these exams than the people who have to take them. Results from a single test can determine whether a student moves up a grade or graduates from high school.
Here’s a video created by senior Tea’a Taylor from Freedom High School in Orange County, Florida, through the school’s Patriot Productions with help from digital educator Cody Stanley.
The teenager, who has been following the debate about the role of standardized tests for some time, targeted the effect on students of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the high-stakes evaluation system in the Sunshine State.
In the video she features seven students who are oustanding achievers academically but who failed the FCAT on their first try. The students, who had excelled in honors and Advanced Placement courses, were placed in remedial reading classes, according to Stanley, because of their poor showing on the FCAT. Also in the video is Orange County School Board member Rick Roach, the man who decided to take a test similar to the FCAT last year to see why so many excellent students were flunking.
Knowing he couldn’t legally take the FCAT, he asked for a test that would be very similar to the 10th grade reading and math FCATS. He flunked them.
“I have taught over 18,000 teachers in [classroom] management graduate courses, yet I’ve been labeled a poor reader,” Roach told me. He was a teacher, counselor and coach in Orange County for 14 years, and has a bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degrees: in education and educational psychology.
The video opens with high school students reading from different books. Then Tea’a Taylor says:
“Now I know you all are probably wondering, ‘What do these individuals have in common?’ Well, they are all scholars. They have high GPAs. They are taking an honors curriculum. And they are all failures.
“Yes, that’s right, failures. According to the FCAT, that’s exactly what they are.”
Here are some of the things the students said in the video about how they felt when they received their failing grades:
* “It made me feel horrible.... I felt like I was going to go under.”
* “I took it. I failed it. My mom loved me but still had that look like, ‘Uch, I can’t believe you failed it.’ It was a hard time for me.”
* “I have a 4.0 grade point average. And I don’t see how that reflects on my FCAT scores whatsoever.”
* “While you are trying to focus, all you can think is I’ve gotta pass, I’ve gotta pass, I have to pass.”
“I am so concentrating on making sure I do pass I just get distracted and off track.”
It’s time adults started listening to students about the consequences of these tests that have such high stakes.
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