Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Florida's FCAT to Undergo Changes for the 2014-2015 School Year

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FCAT testing is well underway in the state of Florida. Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) was first administered statewide in 1998. Since then it has been instrumental in weeding out those students who aren’t intelligent enough to be promoted to the next grade, and those who don’t possess the skills necessary to get into college. Children attending public school in Florida from third through tenth grades must take the reading and math portions of the test every year. In addition, the science portion is administered annually to students in fifth and eighth grades. Students must also complete the FCAT Writes Exam during fourth, eighth, and tenth grades.

“The FCAT is a great tool, but it can’t possibly give us all the information we need,” says spokesperson for the Alliance for the Betterment of Students with Rigorous Discipline (ABSRD), Beatrice Potterland. Currently, many districts administer as many as 62 tests to students during the school year which equates to one test every 2.8 days of student attendance. “It isn’t enough”, asserts Potterland.” Our mission is to ensure children are tested every day they attend school. We can’t gather the necessary information on student and teacher performance without continually using those [the FCAT, FAIR testing, ePats, EOCs, etc.] diagnostic tools.”

In fact, Florida is developing new tests to replace the current FCAT next year. Children won’t just fill in a bubble on a multiple-choice exam; they’ll be asked to underline text, write essays, show work for every math problem, highlight every preposition, and circle every letter “T” within the text and testing materials. In addition, students will be required to write 5 of their own comprehensive test questions that will then be gathered and utilized on the 2016 FCATs. These new FCAT tests will take students, on average, 3 months to complete.

In the meantime, Florida is paying Utah over $5 million to borrow the test questions they’ve written. Some taxpayers oppose Florida’s cash-strapped districts spending money to buy test questions from another state. Principal of Montgomery County’s Herald High School, Dr. Antwan Johnson is concerned. “A problem we’ve run into is that Florida’s students are accustomed to questions like, 'If Daquan steals a $300 pair of shoes and runs 4.7 miles before being caught by the cops, how much time will he do?' and the Utah-generated questions read like, 'If John is 36 years old and his wives are 30 and 26, and he has 10 children, what level of Heaven will he get to?' The ABSRD insists that this is just a minor issue that will be easily solved as Florida spends another $5 million to train teachers how to train students how to answer Utah’s test questions for the 2015 FCAT.

“Of course, we’ll make sure our teachers are adequately trained to administer the new FCAT next year,” Potterland assures us. The current 388 page FCAT testing manual, the 140 page FCAT Writes manual, and the 260 page FCAT computer-based testing manual will be supplemented with a fourth, more comprehensive manual. Test administrators will also be required to complete an additional 20 hours of training. “Don’t worry. We wouldn’t think of leaving teachers to administer this test [FCAT] without first training them on how to collect students’ cell phones, tell time, break open the seals on the tests, pass out pencils, and read the testing instructions verbatim.”

Some people may criticize that Florida currently administers far too many tests, but a recent survey of 150 teachers in Orange County found that 97% of them think there isn’t enough testing. “Every year we’re required to give more and more tests to our students, leaving us with very little time to actually teach. It’s wonderful! I have so much more free time now that I don’t have to come up with lesson plans or grade papers,” says Montgomery County high school teacher, Marianna Fitzgibbons“With all the computer-based testing this year, it takes us a month to get through the FCAT. There are over 1000 students testing and only about 100 computers in the school. Teachers are forced to hold one class [so students don’t make noise passing from class to class which could disrupt those who are testing] for an entire day. We just put on movies for the kids to watch during the testing month. I’ve almost gotten through my entire Netflix queue!”

Potterland agrees that more testing, not less, is what is needed if students are to succeed. Teachers receive bonus money if enough students pass the FCAT. Schools that don’t earn an “A rating” don’t get “A school” money. “This system rewards those teachers who teach kids how to pass the test and weeds out those teachers who don’t like to do things by the book. The teachers who get to know their students and try to tailor their teaching to their kids’ learning styles, the ones who get creative, and the ones who are passionate about teaching will either learn to conform or they will quit, leaving behind the teachers who are dedicated to standardized teaching in a standardized world,” says ABSRD spokesperson, Potterland. “That [rewarding schools that have a high percentage of students who pass the FCAT] is how we will ensure that every school is accountable. The best judge of an individual teacher’s worth is how many students in the school pass the FCAT.”

Currently, Florida’s public school students are required to pass the FCAT in third grade in order to be promoted to the fourth grade. In addition, tenth grade students must pass both the reading and the mathematics FCATs in order to graduate from high school. Soon that will change. “We’re pushing to ensure the FCAT holds even more weight next year. If a student fails the FCAT at any grade level, they will not be promoted to the next grade. If a tenth grader fails it, they will not be allowed to graduate. Under the current rules, tenth graders who fail the FCAT can retake the test up to 5 more times in an effort to pass and thus earn a diploma. Potterland disagrees. “Students shouldn’t be given more chances to pass the FCAT. If they fail, they fail. That’s life. When they can’t attend college, they’ll learn just how important testing is. Starting next year, there will be no ‘do-overs’. That’s why they [students] need to take tests every single day, so they know how to take a test. That’s [test taking] what kids need to learn. That’s what is going to get them into college.” Under this new plan, students may try to obtain a GED and attend trade school, but will not be accepted into any college, thus eliminating anyone who simply isn’t suited for higher education.

image: flickr

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Younique 3D Lashes Winner

The winner of the Younique Moodstruck 3D Lashes giveaway is . . .

Blogger muvie said...
If this mascara can make my eyes look like yours?
I hope I win!!!!
March 30, 2014 at 8:02 PM
Congratulations! Email me at with your shipping information. :) Thank you to everyone who left a comment. If you didn't win and still want to buy the mascara or host a Younique online party, please contact Kathy HERE.

Monday, April 7, 2014

15 Reasons Why No One Will Ever Steal my Van

I'm generally a 'glass is half-full' kinda person. Rarely, I see the glass as half-empty. Sometimes I don't care if the glass is half-full or half-empty as long as the liquid in question is wine. I was feeling down about my car the other day, wishing I had the means to get a slightly newer, slightly less duct-taped vehicle. Instead of wallowing in my self-pity (which I've been known to do from time to time), I decided to make a list of all the great things about my car. For one thing, it's running. (Today, at least.) Also, I don't have a car payment which is really awesome. The more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up with why my car is fabulous. For instance, it'll never be stolen. In fact, I came up with an entire list of reasons why it will never be stolen. How you frame those frustrating situations and circumstances makes all the difference! 

CONTINUE READING Fifteen Reasons Why No One Will Ever Steal my Van HERE!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Younique Moodstruck 3D Lashes Giveaway

I love makeup. Love, love, LOVE it! Two of my favorite stores are Ulta and Sephora. I can't walk by the makeup aisle at Target or Walgreens without browsing the colorful array of awesomeness, so when I was given the opportunity to try out a new mascara, I happily agreed. This mascara boasts a 300% increase in the thickness and volume of your lashes. Of course, I didn't believe that claim, but I still wanted to give it a try to see if I liked it more than my regular mascara. So my friend Kathy sent me this Younique Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes to try. And guess what! Holy cow, it works! I mean, it really works! Like magic! No lie. See for yourself!

Yes, I took those pictures! It's for real. This stuff is AMAZING!

This mascara comes packaged in a beautiful, hinged case (I'm planning on using mine as a sunglass case when I'm done with the mascara.) This Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes is the most unique mascara I've ever seen. It comes in two separate tubes. The first tube holds the transplanting gel and the second contains the natural fibers. You coat your lashes with a layer of the transplanting gel and while they're still wet, you brush on the natural fibers which adhere to the gel. Finish off with another coat of the gel to seal in the fibers and voila! You're good to go! You can repeat the process another time or two for an extra-dramatic look.

I love how this Moodstruck mascara makes my eyelashes appear so thick without looking fake. Now I admit that the mascara is a little pricey at $29.00 for the set, but it costs a good $15 for a pair of decent false eyelashes and then an additional $5-$10 for the adhesive so in comparison to false eyelashes, it's not a bad deal. Plus, it makes your eyes look amazing, not fake. AND it's your own natural lashes so it's comfortable, unlike false eyelashes which can be annoying. And these won't accidentally fall off into your salad. Not that that's ever happened to me or anything . . . ahem. It only takes a couple minutes to apply this mascara; it takes me forever to put on false eyelashes though. Maybe I'm just a spaz, but I always get glue all over my face when I try. And if you must have this mascara, but don't want to part with the cash, host a virtual party and earn it for free!

The Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes stay put really well too. I was wearing this the other day when I went on some water rides at Universal Studios with my kids and it didn't run down my face at all. Not a smudge. Yet it's easy to wash off with a little makeup remover, or even just soap and water. Another nice thing about Younique products is that they are organic, all-natural, mineral-based cosmetics that are free of parabens, oils, synthetic fragrances, and cheap fillers.

Okay, now for the fun part. First, go to Kathy's page and check out Younique's products. (You can place an order on my party if you're so inclined.) Then leave me a comment here to be entered in a drawing for a FREE Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes mascara! I'll choose a random winner on Wednesday, April 9. (Make sure there's contact information so I can notify you if you win!) Good luck! 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fun with the Family (and a Little Hippo Poo Too)

My family lives in Chicagoland. My kids and I live in Florida. Needless to say, we don't get the opportunity to see each other very often. This week, my sister and her boys, and my parents have been in Orlando visiting us. I apologize to all my Florida friends because I'm pretty sure they're responsible for bringing Chicago's crappy weather down here this week. Don't worry, as Murphy's Law would have it, it'll be sunny and warm with a 0% chance of rain when they drive home (and we go back to work and school on Monday.)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How My Restaurant Was Taken Over by Robots

I was visiting with my friend, Ally who has an important position in HR at a major corporation. She was talking to my teens, telling them where the jobs are going to be in the future. "Technology and environment," she said. "You know what jobs won't exist in a few more years? Customer service," she went on to say. "Customer service jobs will be nearly non-existent." 

"That's okay. With his grades," I nodded my head toward my son, "my kids are likely to end up scooping elephant poop at the zoo," I joked. Then I thought about it for a minute. Could she be right? No customer service? Sure, you rarely speak to a person when you call a customer service line anymore. You get routed through an automated system, but I can't imagine customer service jobs disappearing altogether. Will they? 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thirty-One Giveaway

A long time ago I was given a roomy, awesome, large utility tote. It's my beach bag. I throw in snacks, sunscreen, toys, and towels for me and the gang. A teacher at my school has one as well. She uses it to carry her lunch, tests to be graded, and other supplies for school. The tote is from Thirty-One and oh my goodness, they have stuff that makes my bag-addicted self drool. 

Anyway, I love this durable tote and use it often so I recently took a look at my friend Mendi's Thirty-One SITE to see what else was available. I want 2 of everything! Okay, so maybe it's an exaggeration, but I do really like their products. I love the variety of colors and styles. In fact, I found this purse HERE that reminds me of one I had in junior high! The one I had 30 years ago had wooden handles attached to a muslin purse. You buttoned different colored covers onto the purse to change up the look. I remember I had a reversible pink/green cover for it and a denim one. I loved that purse! Thirty-One makes a totally cute purse for which you can get different colored/patterned skirts to change up the look. I want this for nostalgia's sake!

Check out their catalog HERE. They have everything from eyeglass cases, tote bags and purses, containers for home organization, insulated totes for picnics, and more.

Here's a flier with the MARCH SPECIALS.  You get 50% off all totes shown on the flier, with a $35 purchase. Thirty-one is also offering a "Flash Sale" between March 16-22 of select items (everything in the pink column o page 34 of the catalog) at 50% off WITHOUT having to spend $35 first. And these "Flash Sale" specials count toward your $35 purchase in order to get any of the other March specials at half off!  

Order a Mother's Day gift for the special woman/women in your life and get a bag at 50% off for yourself! Or get gifts for your kids' teachers to thank them for teaching and caring for your kids all year. Order now so you won't have to think about it as the school year winds down because we all know how crazy it gets with all the end-of-the-year celebrations, field days, picnics, field trips, etc. Plus, anyone who places an order by 03/30/2014 will be entered in a drawing to win a tote like mine (15+ prints to choose from) or your choice of one of the totes shown in the ad. 

(As you can see, you can get your bags personalized!)

And, of course, if you order now, I'll get some freebies out of the deal. Just sayin'. I mean, if you love Thirty-One products and want to order some fun bags for yourself or as gifts anyway, you might as well do it now, right?  ;) Or bookmark Mendi's SITE so you can check out future sales and order whenever you'd like.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Relax, The Kids Are (Going to be) All Right

Austin got up early and made donuts this morning. That's a simple statement, but it holds depths of meaning for me. The kid that never woke up on time and ended up missing the bus regularly got up at 5:00AM to make donuts. The kid who blew off his homework all the time in high school, practiced the baking skills he learned in culinary school just for fun.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Dos and Don’ts of Texting: A Must-Read Guide for Teens & Parents

My kids are all comedians. I mean, they don't get paid to stand-up and tell jokes at night clubs. But they sure think they're funny. I have no idea where they get it. It's clearly not from me, as I'm the model of solemn decorum. I know there's a time and a place for joking around and it isn't while texting each other. Texting is used for transmitting important and timely information between people. It certainly should not be used to joke with your parents that your house is full of sharks. Yet these are the kinds of texts my kids send.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New Bullet-Proof Paper Makes Standardized Tests a Joy!

Savannah is learning about satire in her English class. I'm so proud of her example of satire. I've taught my kids well!

     West Orange High School is planning a new and improved standardized testing for the upcoming school year.  The department of Published Paper, DPP, has come up with an astonishing new material to replace paper.  It is literally bullet proof.  While students are testing they will be able to withstand a blast from a hydrogen bomb (if they cover themselves completely with the test).  Founders of the DPP have discovered an endangered tree in Greenland, which grows wood stronger than a brick wall.  They have been able to process this wood into thin sheets of paper just for school testing packets.  Government officials know how important it is for students to have the best paper in the world.  Alan Parkins, Director of Paper and Paper-Related Products Like Staples, but not Markers at DPP is excited about the new discovery. “This is the biggest invention in the paper industry since we stopped drawing on cave walls and started pounding papyrus!”

                 With this new paper, teachers no long have to give instruction.  All they have to do is give out tests, and the children love it!  Sophomore Damon Farren says, “I love these new tests!  I don’t ever have to worry about getting hurt from any dangers that I may encounter at school. With this new “cut-free” designed paper, there will be no more unnecessary trips to the hospital. Ms. Goldblum, teacher at West Orange High School is elated. “Last year, I sustained a paper cut while administering a benchmark exam and was on workman’s comp. for 8 weeks while I healed.” This new paper will save the school district untold millions in health-related costs.

Children around the world will finally be able to test at ease knowing that their paper could survive a nuclear holocaust.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pink Zebra Winners

Thank you to everyone who commented! The winners of the Pink Zebra giveaway are . . .

Blogger ariesangel said...
I love their Glimmer Candle Kits! It would be so fun to be able to mix and match to layer scents :)
February 24, 2014 at 11:56 PM

 Blogger Amy said...
I love the picture shade kit. I'd love to combine my 2 favorite things - my grandson and good smells :)

February 25, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Congratulations! Email me at with your shipping address and fragrance choices.

Suave Winner

Thank you to everyone who left a comment! The random winner of the Suave giveaway is . . .

Blogger Michelle said...
I love Suave but haven't tried this line of products yet ~~ would love to though *wink wink*
February 22, 2014 at 7:52 PM
Congratulations! Email me at with your shipping address.

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