FCAT Protest Sends Wrong Message

There are a lot of understandable reasons why a lot of folks — namely, parents, students and teachers — don’t like FCATs. There are even understandable ways of complaining and lobbying.

But one is not the method chosen earlier this year by Pinellas School Board member Mary Russell. She boycotted the FCAT by keeping her kids home on test day.

Now here’s one that makes even less sense.

Minority activists in Miami are calling for a boycott of Florida attractions and industries — such as Walt Disney World, Florida citrus, Zephyrhills bottled water and even the Florida Turnpike — if Gov. Jeb Bush doesn’t call off the FCATs.

The reason, they say, is that a disproportionate number of the 43,000 third-graders and 13,000 12th graders who didn’t pass are minorities. Moreover, more than a third are from Miami-Dade.

The message they say they’re sending is: “This is the only way to get the governor’s attention. Something’s wrong when African-American students are up to three times as likely to fail as their white counterparts. Hispanics are about twice as likely to fail. It’s yet another barrier for minorities struggling to get an education.”

The message they are sending is: “Whatever standards you declare, they don’t apply to us. They apply to white students and even Asian students who don’t speak English natively. Hey, it’s easier not to drive on the Florida Turnpike and not buy Zephyrhills bottled water than to get your kids to apply ‘Just Do It’ to academics.”

The message they should be sending is: “Like most everyone else, we find fault with the FCATs. But we’re going to take it on as a challenge. We’re going to expect success out of our kids rather than demand that the rules be changed. But what we will demand is that parents be accountable and schools provide all the extra means necessary to help get our kids up to speed.

“In 1998 23 percent of black fourth graders were reading at grade level. This year it’s 41 percent. For Hispanic students the numbers have gone from 38 percent to 51 percent. It can be done. We expect — and demand — success — not excuse-mongering and self-fulfilling prophecies for failure.”

And, by the way, what in the world does the Florida Turnpike have to do with FCAT success — other than being a metaphor for rerouting failure?

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