11 years old, Genill Prendergast is already on the verge of being
labeled a failure. She's repeating third grade and if she doesn't
pass a mandatory statewide test, she'll repeat it again. Genill
is one of the 43,000 third-graders in Florida who failed the Florida
Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, in 2003.
Ashley Johnson had earned a 3.0 average in high school and two scholarships
to the University of West Florida where she hoped to study sports
medicine. Then she was one of 12,000 in 2003 who failed the FCAT
required for high school graduation. Ashley thought she was on her
way to a bright future. Now she's working at a theme park near Orlando
and scraping together the money for a course to teach her what she
didn't get in high school.
In place in a growing number of school districts across the country,
including New York City, all-or-nothing standardized tests are shaping
the lives of Genill Prendergast and Ashley Johnson along with millions
of other school children.
Testing proponents argue that ending “social promotion”
benefits students in the long run, and restores the value of a public
school diploma. Opponents concede that
high-stakes tests measure
the shortcomings of students, but
argue that the school system, rather than individual students, should
be held responsible.
In the spring of 2004, Genill Prendergast passed the FCAT. Ý45,000 other Florida third-graders did not.
The Florida Department of Education has published a pamphlet, Myths
vs. Facts about the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. For this
and other publications, visit:
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) opposes the
use of high-stakes tests. The publication The Dangerous Consequences
of High-Stakes Standardized Testing can be found here: