The FCAT is Florida's high stakes test involving about 3 days of testing in which the kids dutifully fill in little bubbles with their number two pencils.
Fail the reading, math, or language arts portions ... and you are going to be in a double period remediation (as in teach directly to the test) class next year in that topic.
If you are a tenth grader ... your graduation is now in jeopardy, no matter how good your GPA is. You will be retaking it next fall ... and you'd better pass.
Science is the odd child out here. Unlike the three R's FCAT tests which the kids take from every year starting as an in utero fetus, the science FCAT is only taken in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades.
And it only counts as part of the overall school grade per the state, or "Adequate Yearly Progress" under NCLB madness.
The kids know the science FCAT doesn't count for them individually. That means that for many of them, it's a Christmas Tree experience.
And it is the last test they take in a week of grueling tests. Guess what their motivation level is...
Yet, their science teacher's evaluation will be partially based on their performance.
It doesn't matter that you are teaching biology and the science FCAT will test them on all the other and very different fields of science, along with biology.
Picture these two high school teachers ...
It doesn't matter that the classes Jane Earth Science Teacher has are composed mostly of kids who read at a 4th grade level, while all the college bound whiz kids took Joe Physics Teacher's class.
Jane and Joe are going to be rated on how their students do.
Sound fair to you?
It's good to be Joe in that situation.
This is just one thing that makes teacher accountability and performance pay such a challenging quest. It's needed, but how do you make the playing field level so it's fair?
Teaching is too often compared to the business model and it just ain't so. It's a whole 'nother beast and it's frustrating to be held accountable for the progress of kids, whose "parents" didn't nurture them in those crucial first 5 years.
It's hard to fix that deficit.
I don't have the answer, by the way.
Ignore the teacher's unions, because they are practically communist in their quest for mediocrity and uniform treatment across the board.
Oh, and here's something you may not know ... it's incorrect to call them teacher's unions, because they are education unions with lots of non teaching members.
I once had a fun verbal battle with a union guy at our school. The "discussion" was over merit pay and increased pay for teachers who go out and hustle to get special endorsements. The union was against "some " teachers getting more pay than others ... even if they had made themselves more qualified.
I am of the "more skills, more pay" school of thought so we clashed.
He had only taught for 8 years and hadn't been in a classroom for the past 10.
Anyway ... sorry for the mini-rant. The point is ...it's a high stakes week in Florida schools.
By Friday, the kids are spent.
So, I chose this Friday to use an extra day of leave I earned ... which means ... I'M OFF DUDES AND DUDETTES!
Let us talk of other things ...
The picture above shows a datil pepper just getting it's TRUE leaves. This was taken a week ago, so they are a little bigger now.
Thank you to everyone who requested datil seeds. My goal of spreading the good datil news across the world is on track. I am getting about 60% germination from the same seed mix so I hope you all get at least that. I'm going to start another round of seeds soon.
The little plant above was started back in the first week of February. They grow pretty slow until things warm up and we have been so consistently cold that these little guys haven't had much outside time.
Those of you with greenhouses or growlight setups will have faster growth.
I have some grape tomatoes, variety "Juliette Hybrid" started too. This also is a photo from last week, so they are looking friskier too.
A few weeks ago, while looking up one plant, I came across info on another ... as is the internet way.
I knew of azolla, but did not realize that it is a nitrogen fixing little wonder plant. It's being promoted across rural areas world wide as a fast growing source of nitrogen fertilizer and even animal fodder ... poultry mostly.
After I read that, I scooped up a bit, just a few plants really, and tossed them into some of my ponds. A week later they had covered the surface of the partly shady ponds.
Here's a close up of our native azolla and a single non-native cousin, salvinia ...
... the green sheep of the family.
It's been raining here for two days and it has warmed up a bit, so if y'all will excuse me now, I'm going outside to play with Bear in the puddles.