More FCAT Troubles for Florida

K-12 Testing

The Florida chapter of the NAACP has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the state's education department alleging that the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) discriminates against minority students whose schools lack the resources white students have to pass the test. The FCAT is mandatory for grade promotion and graduation. Since minority schools often have poorer facilities and resources, the NAACP says Florida is violating its constitutional duty to give an equal and quality education to all students. Federal court decisions in the 1970s and 80s in the Debra P v Turlington case established that the state had to provide an adequate opportunity to learn before imposing a graduation test.


Meanwhile, high school teacher Judy Castillo has filed a lawsuit in Leon County seeking access to testing materials used by her son, an autistic student who was held back in third grade due to his FCAT scores. It is currently illegal in Florida to view the test. One other parent had successfully sued for access (See Examiner, Fall, 2002), but a three-judge appellate panel recently overturned that ruling. Without being able to review the test, Castillo contends there is no way to focus on what areas are giving students trouble. "I'm asking for the test because I'm asking to remediate…so he has the tools to face next year's exam. The whole purpose of assessment is learning." (See box on p.15 for more about Ms. Castillo and her son.)