Failing FCATs Causing Summer Chaos

Opt Out Orlando, with increasing frequency, is receiving frantic requests for help from frantic parents and frantic teachers about third grade students who did not pass the FCAT. There are so many students in mandatory summer school now because they didn’t pass the FCAT. By now, most have been administered the Iowa Test of Basic Standards (ITBS) and the test results will be in next week. The calls we receive are about children, who a parent or teacher feel probably will not pass the ITBS either.

They ask, Now what?

Now that the kids have failed the FCAT and possibly the alternative assessment, the frantic parents and teachers want to know, What is the loophole so the child can be promoted?

PEOPLE!!!  OPTING OUT is the loophole.  It’s the ONLY loophole.  

In the meantime, the children and their parents wait nervously to find out whether they passed the ITBS so they can be promoted to the fourth grade or not. If they don’t pass the ITBS, they won’t be promoted… unless the parent knows they can fight it. Most don’t. And at this point, it’s WORK.
One way to avoid retention is to withdraw the child from school before the end of the school year.  Too late for that now.  Another way is to homeschool for a while and then re-enroll the child into the school system.  This is not an option for all parents, especially parents who work outside the home.

We say it over and over.


To date, no student or school has been harmed by a student opting OUT.
 However, students and schools ARE being harmed by students opting IN.

—> The solution to this problem would have been for the parent to request that a TEACHER-SELECTED PORTFOLIO be maintained from the beginning of the school year. TEACHER-SELECTED.  Drum that into your brain.


It is important NOT to use the district’s CD portfolio. The CD is NOT a true portfolio. The “CD portfolio” is a compilation of FCAT-type reading passages and multiple choice test questions on a CD-ROM that is administered to the student. It is merely a regurgitated FCAT. And it is secret, just like the FCAT/FSA.

There are teachers who maintain portfolios for every child in their class… just in case.  A portfolio is not some mysterious, magical contrivance. It’s not rocket science.  Don’t let anyone tell you it is.

In Florida, it is just a compilation of samples of the child’s work done independently in the classroom, which meet the 42 criteria outlined in a district progression plan.  It may be written work, journals, in-class tests, spelling tests, artwork, projects done in class, photographs, ANYTHING the child has done in the class, which the TEACHER believes demonstrates the child’s fitness to be promoted, based on the 42 required criteria. That’s ALL.

If you want official confirmation of this information, you will need to call the head of Guidance for your district.

Possible Roadblocks:
The choice to compile a portfolio or to use the CD is at the principal’s discretion.   However, you should know, that YOU as the parent, may insist and always have the final say.  There are 42 reading passages that meet the criteria for promotion as outlined in the progression plan.  The 42 can come from classwork or the CD, or any combination thereof.  Most principals will choose the CD because it seems easier.  However… again… the work provided on the CD is the same as the test.  It is secret.  No one, not even your child’s teacher is allowed to see the test questions.

The recommendation from Just Read Florida – is a teacher-developed portfolio or the CD. Orange County increasingly does not trust the teachers enough to use anything but the CD.  You may have to insist on a teacher-developed portfolio.

If we help schools to prepare for us to opt out, from the beginning of the year, it should go much better for the teacher and your child. You may get pushback.  But you may also find the teacher appreciates the heads up.

Food for thought:  My son was in the third grade this year. I requested a portfolio in September, after notifying the school that my children would not be testing.  My son is highly gifted and is always ready to move on.  I believe that his teacher, knowing that he would not have to take the third grade test, felt free to provide him more advanced work. She did not feel pressured to make sure he would “perform” on the third grade test. My son, who often does not like school, had a great year. A really great year.

This post addresses only part of the issues surrounding third grade promotions and good cause exemptions. I will address failing test scores and high school graduation another time.

Ultimately, a real portfolio is how every child should be evaluated in the first place.

Will YOU be requesting a TEACHER-DEVELOPED PORTFOLIO for your child in the third grade this fall?



About The Opt Out Florida Network

The Opt Out Florida Network represents a community of opt out groups and administrators from across the state. The network originated with the work of Opt Out Orlando. However, knowing there is power in numbers, we recognized the need for a broader coalition with more engagement and grassroots action at the local level. The OOF network is a community where parents, teachers, and students can share stories and information; discuss testing, policy, and schooling practices; and become politically active! We advocate for multiple measures of authentic assessments, such as a portfolio, non-high stakes standardized tests (Iowa Test of Basic Standards (ITBS) or the Stanford Achievement Test(SAT10)), which are used to inform teachers' instruction of their students and which do not result in punitive consequences for students, teachers and schools. Formal and informal, teacher-designed classroom assessments provide the best indicators of children's progress, growth and mastery of concepts and skills. The Opt Out Florida Network rejects high stakes testing as meaningless and detrimental to the development of a creative, nurturing and supportive learning environment. View all posts by The Opt Out Florida Network

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