Fourth, eighth, and tenth grade students throughout the Hillsborough County School District express their nervousness and concern for the upcoming Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) writing exam that will take place on Tuesday, February 26, 2013. Students at some schools face more scrutiny than others due to the schools’ grade during the previous school year or because of the previous year’s writing scores. The State of Florida is trying to avoid another situation to where the minimum writing score necessary to pass will have to be adjusted to prevent an increased failure rate. Many recall in May of 2012 where the state’s Board of Education called an emergency meeting to address the issue of the increased failure rate on the writing test of Florida’s 4th, 8th, and 10th grade students. If no adjustment had been made, only 33 percent of these students would have passed the exam.
In an attempt to avoid a repeat of last year, districts across the state are adding increased pressure on teachers, department heads, and academic coaches to ensure that students “score a 4 or higher” on this year’s FCAT Writing exam. District officials are visiting schools almost daily to ensure that teachers are teaching the writing strategies with fidelity and ensure that students achieve a passing score. Meanwhile, students who are typically strong in their academics are experiencing self-doubt and are overwhelmed. Many students state that they are already burnt out and the test has not even occurred. Teachers express concern for the intensity of the writing instruction being provided to students this year in hopes that students do not feel defeated before they even take the exam.
With the exam being less than two weeks away, it is best that no new material be introduced. Introducing new material and new concepts only increases a child’s anxiety and may cause him or her to be counterproductive during the exam. Instead, the focal point should be building upon the skills the child already has and providing encouragement as they take on such a huge task. For additional information and resources, visit the Florida Department of Education's website.
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