Thursday, August 4, 2005

School Daze

Dave Barry chimes in on the early start of school here in Miami:

Among the children who will be trudging into Miami-Dade schools on Monday is my 5-year-old daughter, who enters kindergarten this year. When my wife told me the date our daughter would start school, my fifth question was: “Why?”

(My first four questions, in order, were: “Aug. 8?” “Did you say Aug. 8?” “You mean, like, the eighth day of AUGUST?” “Are they INSANE??”)

I found out that the reason for the extremely early start of the school year is — as you veteran parents already know — the FCATs. FCAT is an acronym standing for “(Very bad word) Comprehensive Assessment Test.”

These are standardized tests that are administered to all public-school students in Florida to confirm the sneaking suspicion among us older people that these kids today are just not as sharp as we were, dadgummit.

The FCATs have come to dominate public education in Florida. At one time, the purpose of the public schools, at least theoretically, was to educate children; now it is to produce higher FCAT scores, by whatever means necessary. If school officials believed that ingesting lizard meat improved FCAT performance, the cafeterias would be serving gecko nuggets.


Some other ways we might improve our FCAT performance are:

1. Expel students who are expected to do poorly on the FCATs. The school could send the parents of these students a letter that said: “We’re sorry, but we do not believe your child is capable of producing the kind of FCAT scores that we need to maintain our average here at Coral Snail Elementary.”

2. Import students to Florida from places that tend to produce high standardized-test scores, such as Japan.

3. Cheat. Hey, this is Miami-Dade County! If we can’t cheat, what’s the point of living here?

4. Instead of starting the school year insanely early, give the tests later.

Ha ha! I’m just kidding with that last one, of course. What a crazy idea! But I sure wish we could find a way to avoid the gradual elimination of our children’s summers. I suspect many of you parents out there feel the same way.

I say we start a movement here to draft Dave Barry to run for the School Board.