If you’re not familiar with the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) debate in Florida, let me bullet-point it for you.
- The percentage of fourth-graders who got passing scores this year on the writing section of their standardized FCAT test was just 27 percent. Last year, that number was 81 percent.
- Instead of being embarrassed by this terrible showing, our state’s education leaders have made excuses about how this year’s test is different from last year’s, how the schools shouldn’t be held accountable, and on and on.
- So far, the state’s response to the FCAT mess has been unacceptable: Lower the standards, so more kids “pass.” Take the schools off the hook. Keep the teachers’ union happy. And keep on rewarding poor performance.
Here’s my question: Why would you ever lower the bar just so a greater number of kids can pass? With this kind of thinking, the gap between the haves and have-nots can only continue to widen.
Life is not judged on a curve. Writing, reading, and math are life skills, and our kids will need those skills to compete. If our 4th graders can’t write at grade level, how well are they going to write in high school? Or in college? Or on a job application?
We’ve lost sight of the most important point: Someone needs to stand up for the kids. In 2009, US fifteen-year- olds ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics across 70 countries. That is unacceptable.
The most successful people in our society should be doing more to raise our standards and improve the quality of our educational system … not just so kids can perform well on a test, but so they can perform well in life. That’s why I decided that it was time to issue a “raise the bar” challenge — to myself and to other business leaders who talk about the importance of education. We need to put more of our money where our mouth is.
I am in the final planning stages of creating a college scholarship program for families who understand the value of education. To apply, subscribe to my blog with your reason as to why education is important to you, your educational goals, and what you’ll do to help change the current educational environment.
People are sometimes surprised to learn how much time I spend working on Florida’s education issues. For the record, I’m a trustee at the University of South Florida (USF), Tampa. After examining the advertising curriculum there and realizing it hadn’t been updated since I graduated 30 years earlier, I put our team to work. We rewrote the program. I’m a trustee at Pine Crest School, in Ft. Lauderdale/Boca Raton. I’m also a long-time supporter of the PASS (Partnership to Advance School Success) program. I’ve mentored Principal Enid Valdez of Piper High School, which is my alma mater. Zimmerman Advertising built a state-of-the art television studio and journalism lab at Piper, and rewrote the video program. Last but not least, I’ve been named to the Council of 100, a special group of private-sector advisors who make recommendations to Florida Governor Rick Scott from a business perspective.
I tell you all this so you’ll know I take education very seriously, and I want to see other people take it seriously, too.
I challenge other private sector leaders to do the same.
The ship is sinking, and we’re allowing it to go down. The system is BROKEN. It must be fixed. Period. No more double-talk. No more excuses.
When it comes to education, there are no “do-overs.” Every time you screw up, you mess with the lives of the students. And Florida is screwing up big-time right now. I’m doing what I can to raise the bar. I wish Florida’s public education leaders would do the same.
US News: U.S. Can Learn From Other Countries’ Education Systems
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development: Student performance in reading, mathematics and science
You Sleep When You Die: Back to School: A Lesson For Grownups