It’s testing season and school computer labs across the country will be turned into testing centers. Media centers have been closed for a couple of weeks now and will remain closed for the rest of the year, off limits to students.

On the doors of school counselors’ offices are signs that read: Closed due to testing. Please see an administrator if you have an emergency.

Auditoriums will be packed full of high school students, who are displaced because of testing.  There they will sit watching movies for hours until testing is over. This can go on for days and even weeks. When I was an assistant principal I remember students watching an entire Lord of the Rings AND Star Wars trilogy before they could return to their classrooms.

This is the logistical reality of large scale standardized testing: instruction ceases, schedules are disrupted, and students are displaced to large holding areas for long periods of time.  It’s a total mess. 

Public educators have learned to live with this reality, which in many ways perpetuates it.

Kids, have stopped caring about the test and it’s consequences.  Some students, who have been beaten down by the test for years, have become numb. Once a student handed me his FCAT answer sheet and only later did I see he had perfectly bubbled in FUCK YOU on his scantron.  I admired his tenacity and ability to convey his frustration.  The principal however, gave him 4 days out of school suspension.

How are we doing on these tests anyway?

  • According to the Florida statewide comparison report, FCAT reading scores from 2011-2013 in grades 3-10 have stayed steady with an average proficiency rate (students scoring a level 3 or above) of 58%. 
  • When looking at just 10th graders, an average of 54% of them scored proficient over the last 3 years.   

How much does it cost?

  • According to the FLDOE, the FCAT cost per student was $30.59 as of 2011-2012.
  • Because only 54% of 10th graders past the test in the last three years, 46% will have to retake the test.  That means districts have to purchase the test again.
  • A high school student who hasn’t passed will make up the test multiple times per year.  
  • A passing score on the 10th grade reading FCAT is required for graduation.  So districts continue to pay the $30.00 per student over and over until the student passes. 
  • There are 25,891 high school students in Lee County.  If 46% (11,909) have to retake the FCAT, that means the district pays $357,295.80 for just one round of retakes for high school students only.  Many of those students will retake the test multiple times. 
  • That’s a lot of money to be paying a private testing company. In many respects, Pearson makes a fortune when our kids fail.

How does this happen?

The graduation mandate under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top makes it possible for test makers, like Pearson, to continue to make money.  They lobby hard for those mandates.  In fact,  the size of the Pearson’s lobby rivals many paramedical drug companies. 


Graph taken from

If you feel this is wrong, you should make a choice: sit back and allow it to continue, or choose to take action.

  1. Students can opt out of the test. Understand your rights regarding opt out legislation.  When parents start opting out their high achieving students from state tests, districts and states will start paying attention because they need those high scores to maintain the illusion that students are achieving on these assessments. 
  2. Parents can ask what kind of logistical plan a school is using for testing is.  If students will be parked in the auditorium or cafeteria for long periods of time, demand better by contacting your school district.
  3. Testing coordinators and counselors can refuse to work overtime they are NOT being paid for. If Pearson stands to make millions from this test, have them bring their people in to do the dirty work of test administration.  Society needs more teachers and counselors, not testing administrators. 
  4. Students can be aware that testing companies are betting against them. Refuse the test and organize to make changes. Show people just how critically you can think and reject the notion that testing companies, like Pearson, should be deciding your future.

Complacency and fear is a dangerous place; it’s where testing companies and shady legislators thrive.

Use the comments below to ask any questions you may have or express how you feel about testing. Share your experiences and connect with others trying to push this movement forward.


4 Responses

  1. Carla Johnson

    It’s sick what we’re doing to our children in Florida. I hope every parent opts out.

    • Kathleen Jasper

      I agree Carla. We need more parents to opt out the high achievers. When the kids who would normally pass the test opt out, people will start taking notice.

  2. Adam Zilbar

    It is unfortunate that there are companies out there that are RELYING on students failure so that they can get paid. wow.

  3. Susy Colombo

    I have felt that way SINCE THE THIRD GRADE. I was never held back in third grade. Every time that the FCAT test would come near I would always have test anxiety. I remember taking it for the last time in my Senior year and when those test results came back and they told me that I was three points away from passing… I GOT SO FRUSTRATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now that I’m a college student I am against STANDARDIZED TESTING!!!!!!!!!!!


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