The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is better known as a four-letter word: FCAT.
Miami-Dade public school students take the high-stakes test Wednesday, so schools are busy with last-minute FCAT preps.
It turns out some schools have a radically different idea about the best ways to get kids ready to deal with FCAT pressure. Coral Park Elementary in Westchester threw a party Monday, complete with dancing, a dunk tank and sports games.
“The students and teachers have worked very hard during the year, so we’re doing this as a party for them because of their hard work,” said principal Maria Nunez, who was ready for the dunk tank, wearing swim fins, a dive mask, and an inner tube around her waist.
The idea here is simple and obvious: to relieve the FCAT pressure for students and faculty.
“For the past ten years, we do this every year, and it has worked out," Nunez said. "We’re still an “A” school."
The kids even got an FCAT shoutout from singer Pharrell Williams, whose latest hit "Happy" is on the top of the charts. The singer with the trademark hat recorded a video specifically for Coral Park Elementary School, and it certainly made the students happy. No pun intended.
“All positive attitudes and positive energy toward you guys doing really good on your FCAT,” Williams says in the video. “We know you’re gonna do some amazing things and you’re gonna get an incredible FCAT score back.”
Across town at Virginia Boone/Highland Oaks Elementary in Northeast Miami-Dade, the principal handed out medallions that say, "Believe in yourself on the FCAT!"
"How many of you think believing in yourself is a key component of doing well on the FCAT?" Principal Scott Saperstein asked a room full of fifth-grade students.
A forest of arms shot up.
"They rise to the level of what teachers expect," Saperstein said. "We tell parents to make sure their child is relaxed, that they’ve done the work throughout the entire year, and that the teachers have done a great job preparing their child for this test.”
At a perennial “A” school like Highland Oaks, the teachers expect excellence from their students. Saperstein said the students at his school are not drilled to death.
"We want the children to do well on the test, but it is, again, only one part of the whole school year. It's a little piece of the puzzle and hopefully that last piece fits in just right," Saperstein said.
He added that parents can do their part by making sure their kids get to bed early the night before the test and feeding them a high-protein breakfast Wednesday morning.
McDonald's is offering free breakfast to students taking the FCAT and to public school teachers on Wednesday morning, but only at participating locations.
Broward students take the FCAT next week.