A farewell address from the FCAT

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Hi, there. My name is FCAT. Yes, I’m the test your kids have been taking in Florida schools for a while now. But before shutting me down, I ask that you hear me out…

I’m 16 years old, but in test years, that means I’m a pretty old guy now.

This year it was clear, my time in Florida has come and gone.

But before I leave you, I want to clear up a few things about our time together. For all the stories that have been written about me, my own story is largely untold.

In the world of public opinion, it’s not easy being a standardized test.

I got a bad rap for being around so much. People always thought that I was trying to get in the way of teachers, and parents thought I was trying to stress their kids out.

Unlike previous Florida tests, I was given to everyone. And grades were given out to schools in part based on how kids performed on me.

Yes, I admit, I was brought in to help clean things up. But that’s because things were pretty messy back then.

See, in 1998, about half of all Florida fourth graders were functionally illiterate. That’s no good. And Florida schools were promoting kids to the next grade without finding out if they were ready.

My job was to find out – are we doing right by our kids? Teaching them what they’ve been promised?

Things started to change from there. And people don’t always like change. I get it.

Change can be hard, and my popularity took a dive in response.

But ironically, these changes – they were the good kind.

With me as a measuring tool, Florida students began to improve.

Today, Florida students are graduating from high school in greater percentages than ever before. Florida students have met and excelled at passing my cousins, the Advanced Placement exams, in nationally recognized numbers. Together, we have moved Florida students towards being more prepared to handle real life situations.

And that’s all I really ever hoped for.

I know my name hasn’t exactly been been a popular household word. My reputation has taken a beating and people flinch when they hear my name.  Don’t think I don’t see it.

But I hope that you understand that what I did – really, what we did together – was a good thing.

As my last goodbye, I want to leave you with these thoughts and with a final thank you for sticking with me. But more importantly, for doing right by our kids.

Although I’m going away for good, your children will continue to run into my kind for the rest of their lives. Tests are everywhere, whether it’s an end-of-course middle school exam or a test to become a pilot ten years down the road. And at the end of the day, I think I – we – helped them get ready for that.

But what do I know? After all, I’m just piece of paper.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.