And now for some non-evolution science education news … the FCAT is so dang important that regular science curriculum is being dropped in some schools in order to do an intense FCAT prep. (The FCAT is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It’s a high stakes test that determines if kids can advance to the next grade in some cases, and if they can can graduate from High School. The results of the test also determine whether schools are rewarded or punished based on their students’ performances. More info here and here.)
When Priya Mistry returned from winter break, she expected to spend the next quarter in chemistry learning about Avogadro’s number and converting moles to mass. Instead, her teacher said he was throwing out the chemistry curriculum for the next seven weeks and teaching a review for the science FCAT.
The science FCAT is given in grades 5, 8 and 11. Students at all levels posted lackluster scores last year, but high schools were particularly hard hit. One reason, science teachers say, is that the test encompasses a broad range of science disciplines taught over several years.
Some advanced students taking honors classes who expected to ace the test have failed it because they haven’t seen earth and space science since eighth grade, Hicks said.
Most students need a review to do well on the test, said Nicole Dougherty, a science teacher at Santaluces High School. Her students do a daily warm-up drill modeled after FCAT questions. When they struggle with a specific tested topic, she spends more time on it.
But devoting seven weeks to review would be a “disservice” to her students who need to learn her courses’ intended content, she said.
“They don’t come to FCAT school, they come to high school to learn a topic,” she said. “If I was a teacher who only cared about scores, I could very well be wooed” to suspend the regular lessons. “We just feel like a good education for these kids will, in turn, give them good, positive scores on the FCAT.”