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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Teachers Must Use this After-FCAT Moment to Make the Classroom More Enjoyable

By Dr. Ardain IsmaFCAT is over, for now.As we all are holding our breath and waiting for the results, can we safely say that it is time to take a rest and forget all about the classroom until the pressure is on again?It would be a grave mistake to think that way.Education, despite all major debates surrounding it, is a profession that requires three important characteristics from those who profess it:Integrity, honesty and professionalism No one should be allowed to teach if he or she is not a teacher, meaning if he or she is not qualified to teach Qualification, here, means having the tools and the know-how to create miracles in the classroom Education expands knowledge; and knowledge brings power All the controversies and heated debates surrounding the Florida Comprehension Assessment Test (FCAT) underscore an important factor That is, education is not what it used to be.With the No-Child-Left-Behind Act still firmly entrenched, and accountability the main order of the day, everyone feels besieged—from district officials to school administrators to teachers to students and parents One wonders whether “Escape” would not be the logical thing to do.But why should everyone escape?Isn’t true that when it comes to education, no child should be left behind?Isn’t it true that education is the best ticket many of our youngsters have to get out of poverty?The problem lies between the political dimension added to the education debate and the genuine need for education reform The sad thing is the fact that those who claim to be the biggest proponents of the No-Child-Left-Behind Act are the ones whose children may have never been in the public school system, and who are using revamped failing schools in inner city neighborhoods as the poverty “poster child” behind million dollar ad campaigns Don’t be foolish to believe FCAT will some day cease to exist The name may be gone, but its legacy and its influence will continue to live for a foreseeable future Politically, it works well for those who invented it.One must have all the reasons to believe that whatever changes might occur in the political landscape in the near future, FCAT, or something like it, will live on.The FCAT process has put tremendous pressure on teachers who face a constant challenge to prove their ability to teach to the test On top of that, they are under rigid control imposed by administrators through countless supervisions and overwhelming exercised pressure in order to make sure teachers are doing what they are told to do.Thus, there is no room left for creativity in the classroom As a result, many students run the risk of losing basic, but important, elements that would help strengthen their cognitive development In CSMS/CSYF, we believe that teachers should, in coordination with school administrators, find a workable formula that would give some flexibility to their curriculum For example, allow teachers to include extra curricula activities as brainteasers according to the needs of individual students in the classroom That would make the rest of the school year more enjoyable for all involved—administrators, teachers and students The FCAT strategies are sound strategies; great tools for academic success But most of them lack what it is needed to bring non-mainstreamed students (ESOL, ESE, Bilingual etc…) along the path to success Adding to that is the acute reality that many content area teachers, although well aware of the ESOL strategies, do not take them into account This is a persistent problem in most schools Many teachers simply fail to understand that both FCAT and ESOL strategies are ends of a continuum rather than a dichotomy So while we wait for the test results to come in, let us remember, once again, our role and mission as educators in the trenches Let us remind ourselves that we, and only we, hold the key to success, as well as failure If we do not execute our task with responsibility and great professionalism, the No-Child-Left-Behind Act will certainly leave many children behind, leaving their future to be lost in the ocean of hope

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