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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Mar. 9, 2015 2 years ago

Pine Trail Elementary hosts 'Spirit Walk' before FSA

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by: Emily Blackwood News Editor

Despite the negativity, Pine Trail Elementary finds a way to stay positive for the Florida Standard Assessment. 

The scene at Pine Trail Elementary School the afternoon before the Florida Standard Assessment test was similar to that of a pep rally before a big football game.

Fourth and fifth grade students skipped down the hallways getting high-fives from younger students who were holding signs that read “You can do it.” The energy and positivity alone from this school-wide Spirit Walk was enough to bring a few faculty members to tears.

“With all of the negative publicity state testing is receiving, Pine Trail Elementary still has a positive attitude,” Media Technolgy Specialist Kelly Stotler said in an email. “High fives and shouts were given to all of the students who have worked so hard throughout the year to prepare for state mandated tests.  Their teachers walked with them cheering them on. The excitement was contagious throughout the entire student body as well as faculty and staff.  Many of the educators were brought to tears as we witnessed the excitement the students had as well as the support that was being offered from the entire family at Pine Trail Elementary. “

The idea was brought together by the school’s Parent Teacher Association, and was held March 6 before the students took the writing portion of the FSA. Students and teachers from every grade level, special area teachers, office support staff, administrators and parents held up signs that read things like “Do Your Best On The Test,” and “We Believe In You.” Stotler said she really noticed the impact the walk had when the students came the school the next day.

“As I was walking to the media center, twins stopped me full of excitement,” she said, “They told me how excited they were about the FSA and that they knew they were going to do great! Attitude is contagious. There is such a positive atmosphere at Pine Trail Elementary.  Everyone works together to help our students. It is noticed everywhere you go.”

The FSA has received a lot of negative feedback from parents and schools in the state. Some parents encouraged their kids to take the opt-out option. Lynne Rigby, a mom in Seminole County, had an essay published in the Washington Post about why she wouldn’t let her children take the test.

“I am 41,” she writes. “I graduated from the very schools my children attend. I was in the top 10 percent of my class. I’ve navigated my life pretty damn well so far. I took the FSA practice tests. I should never stumble over a third-grade question, but I did. I should be able to do a decent job on the 10th grade test, but I didn’t. I had to walk away. The kids aren’t given that option. I invite you to take them – it’s not fun. Not even a little bit, but you need to see what they’re asking of these kids. I challenge our legislators and the Florida Department of Education to take these test while being recorded and have their scores made public.  If you are going to do this to our kids, you need to see exactly what they go through.”

Rigby’s other reasons for opting-out include that the test isn’t a valid assessment tool, it’s too long and the stakes, including teacher-merit pay and school grades, are too high. The state government is starting to react to the push, after some schools reported technology problems while taking the test. Florida Governor Rick Scott recently suspended a test given to Florida’s 11th-graders. The executive order was issued after Education Commissioner Pam Stewart completed an investigation into the number of tests given by school districts, and called for a reduction in the number of tests.

But despite the negativity and conflict surrounding the FSA, Pine Trail will continue to keep up the positive attitude.

“I just thought this was amazing that amidst all of the negativity throughout the state regarding testing, there is such a positive attitude at Pine Trail Elementary,” Stotler said. “It shows in the students’ enthusiasm.“

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