New FCAT law takes effect

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By Jim Clark

About this time every year, people become aware of just what the Legislature accomplished at its spring session.

Many new laws take effect on July 1, and this year is no exception.

One of the major changes, or at least it seems that way, regards the FCAT, the school assessment test given to various students during the year.

One thing that has been popular with schools, particularly elementary schools, has been a series of "pep rallies" to get students ready for the test.

No more.

According to The Associated Press, practice tests and pep rallies are now forbidden - "FCAT frenzy" is what it's called.

In other words, schools have to treat it routinely instead of making such a big deal out of it.

There are some other changes in grading high schools by the FCAT, including the use of graduation rates and participation in advanced placement classes.

This is not completely what those anti-test forces wanted, but for them it's a step in the right direction.

Another education law that will be felt by the students - literally - involves physical education. Elementary students must now have 30 minutes of continuous exercise daily.

And, starting next year (2009) in the fall, middle schools will be required to have daily P.E. classes.

That's probably a good thing in this video game age.

One law I found interesting, and possibly unnecessary, is one that allows single-gender classes. I always thought that each school could assign students to classes as it wished ... guess I was wrong.

Now the schools are allowed to have all girls in one class and all boys in another.

Since I went to an all boys high school, I don't see any problem with that. In fact, the students who would complain the most are probably those who need it the most - they're the ones looking for distractions from the opposite gender in the classroom.

Another controversial law that took effect was one that allows workers and customers to keep guns in their cars when they park in lots owned by private and government employers.

This law, however, is being challenged, and last week one federal judge called it "stupid."

So don't look to carry that gun to work quite yet. The law could be quickly reversed.

There are also a bunch of other laws, one of which cuts state spending by about $4 billion. I feel like putting a bumper sticker on my car: "Honk if you expect to see any of that $4 billion in the form of local tax relief." I don't think I'll hear many horns beeping about that one.

Jim Clark is the editor of the Williston Pioneer Sun News. He can be reached at editor@willistonpioneer.com or at 528-3343.