If you want some detailed information (or a general idea at least) of what I mean when I say FCAT reading camp you can check out a news article about one in Orange County here.

If you aren’t from Florida you should know that the FCAT is our standardized test that is given to make sure students are performing at a certain standard (well, that’s what it is supposed to be for).  If you fail the reading portion of the FCAT in the third grade you fail the third grade as well.  (Hmm, well most of the time anyway..there are ways around that little rule so don’t think that means everyone who makes it out of the third grade actually knows what they are supposed to, but I digress).  If you fail the test you are allowed to participate in an intensive FCAT reading camp for part of the summer.  The curriculum is set by the school district and is different from county to county.  I’ve actually taught at one of the FCAT Reading Camps and therefor am not totally blowing steam when I tell you it isn’t worth the money the districts have to pay teachers.

Honestly, I am quite expensive at an hourly rate and I’m by no means (not even close) the most expensive teacher out there.  As a matter of fact I live in a rural area (read we get paid less than those big city teachers) and I didn’t have decades of experience when I taught the program.  Even with all of that I was paid close to $25 per hour for this program.  I taught my little heart out and did everything in the program and bought stickers and special pencils to help motivate my kids.  I planned for hours and even got a local bookstore involved and helped to set up a little ‘bookstore’ at the school where the children got to pick books to take home and keep. (they loved this by the way).  Don’t forget that in addition to paying me the district also paid for the transportation of the children and their lunches and the curriculum etc.  Guess how many passed the test? (out of a class of oh say 6).  NONE.  And would you like to know why??  Was it the fault of the curriculum? Nope, pretty decent.  My fault?  Not in my opinion but then I suppose I am biased.  Whose fault then?  No one’s.

The reason is hinted at in the article referenced above.  The reason these kids didn’t do any better on the second test is because:

  1. Their attendance wasn’t mandatory.  Many of the students went on ‘vacation’.  This speaks to a lack of parent involvement and dedication.  What is more important your child’s education or going to the beach?  The same parents that answered beach are the ones whose children racked up record absences during the school year.  If you aren’t in school you won’t learn.
  2. Many students were not native speakers of English.  Instead of getting year round intensive instruction many are tossed into the general population.  How do you think you’d do if you were plopped into a Russian school in the third grade?  Hmmm??? and if that didn’t work out do you think an extra month of ‘intensive’ instruction would fix it?
  3. Students with learning disabilities.  One of my angels (and I actually mean that because this student was such a sweetheart) had an IQ that was around 70 which is classified as “extremely low”  This child will never receive a standard diploma and will eventually be on special standards.  There were other students with what I believed were undiagnosed learning disabilities but nothing I could do about them (as in I couldn’t diagnose because that is a ‘process’ that has to begin during the school year) except note the problems I saw in my end of lesson notes.
  4. You then have students that had ‘problems’ throughout the school year.  These could be discipline or family related.  Again, nothing that is typically resolved by the summer.

So what is my point?  My point is I think these camps are pointless.  I don’t think they are cost effective.  If the child didn’t get it during an ENTIRE school year a few weeks in camp isn’t going to fix it.  For students with learning difficulties or who are new the English language another year in the same grade is a good thing.  It gives them a whole extra year to become proficient in the skills they are going to need in the next grade.  For students who had other “issues” bad choices should result in consequences.  If you chose not to come to school, messed around while at school, or “Christmas Trees’ the test then you shouldn’t be given another opportunity, you should fail.  Period.  The idea that everyone is intellectually equal is ridiculous and offensive.  People are different and that is ok.  If it takes you two years to make it through a grade but at the end of those two years you are ready for the next step then that is fine.