© copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert
Dear reader, as you review this treatise, please consider, the parallels. Pedagogy and poverty are poignant concerns in Florida and throughout the United States.
The results were announced; Florida students overwhelmingly failed the science portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT]. More than two thirds of the population tested below grade level. Science instructors are looking at the recent test results as an opportunity. They have a chance to improve their curriculum. The Science studies departments are planning more hands-on instruction. They intend to attend seminars on how to best prepare students in the summer.
J.P. Keener, the supervisor of secondary science education for Broward County promotes the positive. This official says, ????we’re in a good position to line everything up to attack this exam seriously.” Then, the administrator adds, “Now, the last part is the kids, and that’s the unpredictable part.”
The Broward County Director stresses the science test is not and will not be tied to graduation. He extrapolates; students will have little incentive to excel. However, even when an assessment test is attached to the ultimate reward, students in Florida still fail repeatedly. Pupils that were unable to pass the mandatory FCAT high school exit exam after one or two trials are allowed to take the exam again. Reports reveal that even when students have taken the tests on multiple occasions; a large number do not demonstrate mastery.
Statewide, about 11,600 students — 8 percent of the state’s seniors — are expected to miss out on a diploma solely because of failing the exam, according to Education Commissioner John Winn. Last year, that number was about 7 percent.
Just 12 percent of seniors and 14 percent of juniors passed the reading test in Miami-Dade County, continuing a steady decline. In Broward County, 13 percent of seniors, and 19 percent of juniors passed.
Results on the math test were slightly higher, with passing rates ranging from 20 percent to 35 percent in South Florida.
Danielle Boyer, Chairwoman of the Social Studies Department at Miami’s Edison Senior High suggested, ????they’re worried a lot and stressed a lot.” In her school, there is a large foreign-born population.
Ms. Boyer spoke of how they struggle. She said, “They want to obtain their high school diploma; they understand its vital importance.” Nevertheless, these students still are unable to pass a test they have taken before. Chairwoman Boyer then offered, ??many students in the high-poverty Little Haiti neighborhood must work or care for siblings, which cuts into their studying.’
However, I wonder if all those that fail are new immigrants. I have personally observed and experienced many new Ã©migrÃ©s excel. Education is important to them and they see this as a path towards prosperity. I offer this recent New York Times article as evidence of my contention.
Within the text David Card, a Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley says, “You can expect a child of immigrants whose parents have 10 years of education to do a lot better than a child of natives whose parents have 10 years of education.” Card continues, being a child of immigrants, “sort of boosts your drive.”
My suspicion is the country of origin may play a role however, as Professor Card and others note the structure of the family definitely influences what will come. Experts contend, as I too experience and believe, a more important factor is poverty.
Currently, nineteen percent of the children in Florida live below the poverty line. They have not seen prosperity in their personal lives, and many struggle to imagine that it could be real. Approximately ten percent of Florida families are defined as poverty stricken. Close to five percent of married couples are at or below the poverty line. Life in Florida can be grim.
I have lived in this state for seven months, and sadly, the results of these tests do not surprise me. I had reason to spend time in some of the schools and on each occasion, I was astounded. Granted, thus far, I have only been in the public schools and a large portion of the population in this South Eastern state receives their training in private institutions; nevertheless, there is an attitude here that seems pervasive. I will identify it by quoting the oft-heard statement, “Welcome to Florida.”
Each time I struggle to locate a product or a person to assist me in completing a project this declaration is uttered. This sentence is rarely recounted with a sense of sincerity; it is delivered sarcastically. People here accept that if you need a service, supply, or a solution to any problem, you are not likely to find these here in Florida.
In schools, from what I have witnessed, there is an assumption among many students, “school is just” a stomping ground, a weigh station; it holds no real worth or value. Pupils empathically assure me, “kids will be kids.” Learners I spoke with assured me they have no interest in being treated as wise and thinking individuals; they rather be thought of as “children.” They say aloud, there is far less responsibility if others think of you as a youngster, a teenager, or an adolescent. Few have serious expectations for them selves. They do not want others to “require” “too much” of them.
Within the framework that is their life, they cannot truly imagine more than what is.
“I am still young,” is an oft-heard mantra. The inference is I will have time to learn later, “maybe when I am in my thirties,” said one student.
A few students discussed their education with me; the consensus was it is not that important in their lives. Many learners expressed a lack of opportunity. Others wanted none. They majority assumed they would work in a trade. Few aspired to attend college. A four-year degree was unthinkable. Numerous pupils were surprised when I broached the subject. Among those planning to enroll in a University, there was an amazing pre-occupation for play. They said college and academics would come later. For now, it seems, class lessons are not to be taken seriously, little is. The future is too distant to consider.
Fortunately, I did meet a lovely high school student on the Tri-Rail. She was planning for her career and looking forward to college; she knew exactly where she wanted to go. However, she was not as I typically encountered in this state. Interestingly, she is among the masses that attend a private school here. I strongly suspect the private pupil is another class of student. Still, I worry. Was the FCAT test given statewide; were private and public school students included in the results. This possibility troubles me and I would hope it troubles those residing within this state. I have spoken to a few and again I am told, “Welcome to Florida.” Florida seems to think itself different and in some ways, it is. However, I fear that it is not.
In Florida, poverty and apathy may be more insidious, more obvious; yet, no less invasive than it might be elsewhere.
Florida, with its triple “A” [AAA] credit rating is among the poorest states in the country. The state has mega-money; the people living here do not. This, I believe is among the many reasons that students in Florida struggle.
According to A Research Report by Bruce Nissen and Jen Wolfe Borum, titled Working Poverty: Low Wage Workers in Florida,
Florida is a low wage state and many in Florida are working full-time and still poor. Women, minorities, and immigrants are all more likely to work and still not escape poverty. Florida has an unusually high percentage of low-wage jobs, due to its tourist-related economy. Even more children live in poverty. Fully 19% of Florida children lived in officially-defined poverty in the year 2003.
The overall poverty rate for persons in Florida as measured in the 2000 Census was 12.5 percent. This rate is slightly lower than in 1990 when 12.7 percent of the state’s residents lived in poverty.
Despite a decline in the poverty rate, the number of persons living in poverty increased by nearly 22 percent during the decade and totaled just under 2 million persons in 2000. The number living in poverty in 1990 was 1.6 million persons.
Poverty rates varied greatly by age and by family composition. While nearly one out of every five children in Florida lived in poverty in 1999 (17.6 percent), less than 1 in 10 of Florida’s 65 and older population had income below the poverty threshold (9.1 percent). Older children, ages 5 through 17, had a poverty rate of 17.2 percent in 1999–lower than Florida’s youngest children but substantially higher than the elderly population.
Poverty rates vary greatly by race. Individuals who reported that their race was black alone were more likely to be living below the poverty level at all ages. Black rates ranged from 2.3 times the white rate at ages 18-64 up to 3.6 times the white rate at ages 65-74. Poverty rates for persons of all other races (including individuals who reported more than one race) fell between the rates for whites and blacks.
“Florida has performed badly for quite some time.” This from a report titled “Is Florida’s Economy Underperforming?” by Dr. Bruce Nissen of Florida International University, Center for Labor Research and Studies
In March 2004, Nissen wrote
It [Florida] is a low wage state by any standard. Depending on the measure used (hourly wage, annual wage, median wage for a family of four, and so on) the state pays wages somewhere between 85% and 95% of national averages. This usually places the state somewhere in the thirties out of the fifty states.
Money in Florida is a beguiling dynamic. There are those that have ample amounts of dough and those that do not. The disparity is astounding. Eighty-percent of workers are employed in low income, service jobs. Twenty percent do much better. Many of the wealthiest persons, nation-wide retire here; yet they do not have school age children and therefore may demonstrate little interest in education issues/funding.
If a student comes from money, they receive more. Money buys. A pupil marinating in poverty will drown in it. The rich will receive a richer education. The poor will plunge further into oblivion.
In Florida, in inner cities nation-wide, and other poverty-stricken areas educators are distressed; however, in Florida, the accepted and expected apathy looms larger. Many have given up, students among these.
Still, experts do as they do. They evaluate the system and the science scores from a pedagogical point of view. They look at the superficial, the tally, and teaching solutions. Some of this talk is good and necessary. I agree; we, as educators must look at the validity of standardized testing and teaching to the tests. We must assess the systems within Florida.
Academicians must study the notion that says, providing students with a two-tiered testing system is optimal. We must wonder whether Florida is the model it is purported to be by those that support uniform testing. Are two types of testing, low and high stakes examinations enhancing understanding; do they advance test-taking skills. Is teaching to these [silly] tests worthwhile? Are students learning lessons that will last a lifetime if curriculum is rote?
Educators must continue to promote creative curriculums. Obviously, those that are not imaginative, inspired, and inventive are not working. Still, I think the science scores must be evaluated more broadly. we as a society must be honest with ourselves. Education does not begin or end in our schools. What happens in our nation’s homes does matter. Parents and poverty teach more than professional educators might. To be truly effective, I think we, as a society must evaluate education as a whole. What an individual learns at home, on the streets, from proprietors, and from social order teaches more than we might think. Florida’s culture teaches its students to not expect much. What happens in the students’ world cannot be separated. The sum is far greater than the parts.
Plunge Into Pedagogy and Poverty . . .
- FCAT reveals students fuzzy on science basics By Erika Bolstad. Miami Herald. May 25, 2006
- PDF FCAT reveals students fuzzy on science basics By Erika Bolstad. Miami Herald. May 25, 2006
- 2006 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT], State Level Report. Florida Department of Education.
- Middle kids raise bar on the FCAT By Hannah Sampson. Miami Herald. May 24, 2006
- Students fare poorly in FCAT retesting. By Matthew I. Pinzur and Hannah Sampson. Miami Herald. May 2, 2006
- The rich, the poor and the growing gap between them. The Economist. June 15, 2006
- Immigration Math: It’s a Long Story. By Daniel Altman. New York Times. June 18, 2006
- Immigrant Success or Stagnation? Confronting the Claim of Latino Non-Advancement. By Walter A. Ewing, Ph.D. and Benjamin Johnson. Immigration Policy
- Socioeconomic Statistics & Demographics Asian-Nation
- Poverty in Florida 2000 Census Reports. October 2002
- Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT].
- Testing High Stakes Tests: Can We Believe the Results of Accountability Tests? By Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., Marcus A. Winters, and Greg Forster, Ph.D.. Civic Report No. 33. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research February 2003
- Congressman Davis Brings Florida’s FCAT Experience to the House Debate on National Standardized Testing. Office of Congressman Jim Davis May 22, 2001
- Closing The Student Achievement Gap Florida TaxWatch. May 17, 2004
- Comparative Poverty Statistics: Florida and the U.S., 2004 Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy
- Is Florida’s Economy Underperforming? Policy Brief. By Dr. Bruce Nissen. Florida International University Center for Labor Research and Studies. March 2004
- Working Poverty: Low Wage Workers in Florida, A Research Report by Bruce Nissen and Jen Wolfe Borum. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy [RISEP]. Florida International University May 2, 2005
- School Test Rewards Produce Growing Disparity Between Rich, Poor University of Florida. August 12, 2004
- A Missing Piece in the Debate on School Performance By Walter R. Tschinkel, Professor of Biological Science. Florida State University
- Community Data United Way of Tampa Bay
- “Poverty, Not Race, Holds Back Urban Students.” By William L. Bainbridge and Thomas J. Lasley, II. Columbus Dispatch. July 2002
- FCAT Project Comments
- What is the FCAT? FCAT Explorer. Florida Department of Education