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• Mike Thomas

Oh how everybody hates it, particularly the Florida Education Association. President Andy Ford says the union lacks confidence in it. “We all want to know what students are learning and have trust that any assessment be an accurate representation of what students are learning,’’ he says.

Of course, Andy knows better. He fully understands the FCAT is a very good measure of what students are learning because it has been proven time and again.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the so-called “gold standard’’ of standardized testing, recognized nationally as the best tool for comparing students across state borders. When you look at the improvement Florida students have made on the NAEP test since 1998, they mirror the improvement on the FCAT.

“Gains in FCAT scores reflect true learning gains,” says Cornelia Orr, the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board.

And now come the latest SAT results. Florida’s black students increased reading scores by seven points while the national performance was unchanged. The mean score for Florida Hispanic students in critical reading is 29 points higher than the national average.

Again, this is reflected in FCAT scores.

A student who miserably fails the reading FCAT, time and again, is not the victim of a high-stakes test. He or she is a student who cannot read at a functional level. Andy wants to dilute accountability for that by including other factors in evaluating children.

So I guess my question is this. If you have an illiterate third grader who is destined to drop out of high school, what other metric would you want to include in evaluating the job her school is doing?

About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at