Are FCAT camps a secret weapon to success?

admin | 5/17/2012, 6:31 a.m.

Two weeks of another grueling FCAT examination period are now over for Miami-Dade County Public School students. And while some students may be relieved, others are still on pins and needles, waiting for their scores which wont be released until the end of the school year. However, there are a few schools who have benefited from a secret weapon FCAT camps. And they say they anticipate better marks because of those camps and other helpful pre-test preparation strategies. Archimedean Charter, George Washington Carver Middle and Herbert A. Middle schools all ranked in the top 20 in all of Florida based on several factors that include added points derived from the Florida Comprehension Assessment Test [FCAT]. Assistant Principal Christina Briz at Archimedean Charter in West Kendall believes their middle school kids performed well because of special factors including implementing Saturday school often referred to as FCAT Camps. At the camps, teachers or even community leaders can volunteer on Saturday or after school to help students with test-taking skills and FCAT practice tests. Extra help yields better scores We have had Saturday school to prepare for the FCAT since the school first opened 10 years ago, Briz said. All of our students attend and teachers volunteer. If we need extra help, we go to one of our board members who is a college professor at Florida International University or our I.T who is a math teacher. As an incentive Brit allows teachers two personal days for teaching at Saturday school or for tutoring up to half a dozen students during teacher-planning days to help kids prepare for the state standardized exam. We have tutoring for 30 minutes every Monday through Thursday during school hours, said Assistant Principal Shelton Rivers at George Washington Carver Middle school. Rivers noted that the schools administrators target students weaknesses by monitoring each students previous FCAT scores. Carver does not have FCAT camps, but our advanced courses are taught at a very high level and we meet the same academic criteria as all magnet schools, Rivers said. Greater challenges for inner city schools But sometimes it takes more than FCAT camps to help kids make the grade. Charles Drew Middlein Liberty City also a magnet school has held its Saturday FCAT Camps for the past several years. Nonetheless, last yearonly 18 percent of its sixth graders scored at or above math level. Officials from Charles Drew Middle were unable to comment before we went to press. Dean of Discipline Phaion Hicks at Edison Middle School said he believes it will take more than FCAT camps for local inner city schools to catch up to our suburban counterparts. There are a lot of different variables that go into it such as parental involvement but the more contact you have with tutors and teachers the higher your test scores will probably be, he said. Thirty-four percent of Edisons 6th graders scored at or above math level in 2011. Hicks says Edison Middle does have Saturday FCAT tutoring and he can see small, but significant improvements within the student body. Miami Edison has recently gone from a D to a C school. I anticipate the test scores looking better than last years and hopefully our becoming a B school, Hicks added. By Latoya BurgessMiami Times writerlatoyaburgess21@gmail.com