Degree Granting Department
Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D.
Accountability, Parents, FCAT, Educational anthropology, Media
In 1998, Florida implemented a system of standardized testing known as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). While initially designed as one among many tools to assess student and school progress, the FCAT has become a high-stakes test. Schools whose students fail to meet certain benchmarks are in danger of losing their students to "school choice plans" (which enable parents of children attending failing schools to choose another, more highly rated school) while parents must contend with ever broadening educational policies. The implications of this policy have been far reaching. Textbook makers now market individualized textbooks that teach FCAT content, schools hold FCAT pep rallies, and some schools hold celebrations at the end of FCAT testing. Both parents and children report feeling stress during FCAT testing time and numerous educators have left the field in protest of the emphasis placed on one measure of student achievement.
The impact that the FCAT and associated policies have had on Florida families is the subject of this thesis. Archival research was gathered from the St. Petersburg Times surrounding coverage of the FCAT and a content analysis was conducted. Interviews were carried out with parents of elementary school children surrounding the issues discovered to be most relevant in the content analysis. A comparison of the content analysis and interview data showed that some of the issues covered most extensively in the media were not the most significant to parents. One of the most reported-on issues, the proposed changes (or lack thereof) to FCAT policy by Florida governor candidates in the 2006 election, was not the most important issue to parents, who were far more concerned with the amount and types of homework and associated stresses their children felt.
Recommendations include giving parents a greater voice in the media by creating a guest columnist section and holding advisory meetings between high-ranking Florida officials and parents of current schoolchildren.
Scholar Commons Citation
Hunsecker, Jennifer Gilroy, "High stakes testing in Florida: Media portrayals and parental realities" (2007). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.