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Curiosity is killed by the FCAT

How did we end up with something as wholly-despised as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT?

It would be easy to lay the state’s current system for measuring student learning at the feet of former governor Jeb Bush, an advocate of standardized testing and other Florida education reforms implemented after he took office in 1999.

But there’s plenty of blame to go around, from the Florida Legislature to the State Board of Education and the bureaucrats at the Florida Department of Education and the corporations (yes, bureaucrats exist outside  government, too) that profit from making the tests and the systems that process them, and report the results to the state.

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So now we will ‘reclibrate?’

Re-calibrate?

That’s the word an official of Florida’s Department of Education used to characterize what the state’s Board of Education did last week when FCAT writing exam scores for 4th, 8th and 10 graders were released and did a free-fall. Only about a third got the minimum passing grade.

I think what he meant was the board “dumbed down” the score so the results weren’t as dismal. That’s certainly what most of the nation believed when the “re-calibration” was announced.

Never underestimate academia’s penchant for snatching words like “re-calibrate” to describe what happened. Obfuscation of the language is what they do best.

Baker County students, incidentally, were right there with counterparts in Florida’s remaining 66 counties. The “passing” percentage here went up when the numbers were “re-calibrated.”

So now, what they’re telling us is the reading portion of FCAT was made more difficult, but made so too swiftly. What tripped up students was the new emphasis on punctuation, spelling and grammar.

What?

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Board’s fine reduction ‘nonsense’

Dear Editor:

Having read your column (Code board pushed under the bus) in last week’s Press, I am stunned. This is just nonsense.

My husband was the Baker County code enforcement officer until his death in December of 2009. He worked very hard documenting and attempting to get violators back into compliance with the rules of the code enforcement department. He often told me some violators did not know or did not care, but since he was a former LAPD officer, he was able to get them to see he had his job and they had their job, that is bring their property up to code.

He had a lot of respect for other employees at the building and zoning department, and they worked together as a team. Many violators heeded the letter of the law and his notices advising them to conform, and others brought their property up to code. Some were given more time and some were not. That is where the investigation and due diligence came in.

I live down the road from someone who received a hardship exemption that my husband argued heartily against. He and I both knew there was no hardship, yet the property owner claimed to be taking care of an ailing parent.

Set a precedent and that bell cannot be unrung.

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Code board pushed under the bus

The Baker County Commission printed out a road map last week on how to beat a fine by the Baker County Code Enforcement Board for non-compliance.

Wait until an election year and plead hardship.

In a textbook example of how to set a horrible precedent, the county board reduced a non-compliance fine from $1410 down to $187.84, the lower amount equal to what the county zoning department spent processing the case plus a $50 fine.

The code board, at its April meeting, cut the original $2820 fine owed by Roger Harvey for non-skirting of a mobile home in half (by a 5-2 vote) and the defendant, as he has the right to do, appealed it to the commission.

Mr. Harvey, who showed up at the code board meeting with a bit of an attitude, had no credible defense as to why he ignored the initial complaint in 2010, why he did not attend a hearing on the case or why he let the fine accumulate during the maximum 180 days.

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