What could possibly cause Miami Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to put on his dancing shoes and bust a move with students? The very same thing that brought Miami Heat stars into the classrooms via an 8-minute video created to motivate and inspire our students as they took on the intense season of testing.
Last week marked the end of a six-week testing period, not just for schools in our city but for schools all over the state. From SATs to EOCs to the infamous FCAT, local students were well prepared for what some would call an exhausting season. Students, teachers and (although they might be reluctant to admit it) administrators are very likely counting down the days until summer.
“This year began with one of the greatest challenges, and that was to increase student achievement and raise the school accountability grade. We have been preparing our students from the first day of school,” said Kimberley F. Emmanuel, principal at Miami Springs Middle School. “It has been a team effort by students, teachers, coaches and administrators. Throughout the year, teachers have incorporated best practices along with active reading and learning strategies to prepare students for the FCAT 2.0. School-wide we have offered individual and group tutoring for both remediation and enrichment according to the needs of the student. We have also provided school-wide incentives such as dances, gift cards, movie day, and field trips in an effort to help students feel their hard work is rewarded and to motivate them to perform their best on test day.”
Miami Springs Middle School is certainly not alone when it comes to getting creative to inspire and educate our children. Miami Springs Elementary and Springview Elementary, Miami Springs Senior High, and AIE Charter School definitely got in on the action when it came to rewards and incentives and all schools were given the opportunity to watch the 2014 Heat FCAT video pep rally.
When the Miami Heat pause from their busy season to show their support, local students will stop and listen. Coach Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade Chris Bosh, and a handful of other players grabbed the attention of students as they related basketball to real-life testing for the students.
“You think I’m big,” said Bosh. “You should check out the size of our Heat playbook our coaches give us to study. Just like your teachers, our coaches test us on what we’ve learned every day.”
“You see, students, we’re not much different than you,” said James. “We have to study and practice hard every day to make sure we stay on top of our game. You know what they say, practice makes perfect. That’s why it’s important for you to work on your reading, writing, science and math each and every day.”
While many of our local schools hosted pep rallies of their own and offered enticing incentives, the real work starts, as it does every school year, in the classroom. What teachers begin at school, parents continue at home. Many parents also call on aftercare programs and/or tutoring centers for enforcement and help with specific subjects. It’s a collaborative effort and it’s year-round learning.
“Our job is not just assisting children with their homework but tutoring them in their weak areas and giving them the necessary tools to perform well on the FCAT. We know the stress parents and students go through every year in preparing for the FCAT,” said Maria Rivero, executive director at New Life After School Program. “We aim to remove this stress from families as we do our part in working hard with the children and preparing them for the big test. We also know that this kind of preparation happens year-round. Not only in the school year but during summer camp we devote 1 hour and 15 minutes of study time to ensure our students are keeping their mind fresh for the upcoming school year.”
While no hiccups were reported with local SAT testing and EOC testing finishes up smoothly this week, the same can’t be said for FCAT, which has had more than its fair share of controversy over the years. This year, there were a few speed bumps on the first day of FCAT. What seemed to be a computer glitch prevented thousands of students from logging on, causing a delay for many schools.
Carvalho took to social media to share his concern. “With student promotion, retention, graduation, as well as school grades, teacher and administrator evaluation at stake, we must once again question the state’s readiness through its contractor for this assessment administration, as well as the eventual reliability of the data.”
The controversy likely will continue as schools, students, and parents await the results. Individual testing scores eventually will be available to parents and students online at dadeschools.net but no one knows the exact timing of the results, like previous years.
The future of FCAT is clear; there is no future. Although this is the last year of FCAT, next year there will be a different test, with a different name. The new test likely will bring a controversy of its own. For now, the hectic testing season is over and students will resort to their mathematic skills to figure how many days are left until summer break and principals and teachers surely will remind students to complete their summer packets, which will prepare them for another year of learning and another year of testing.