Destin Middle School Sails Through FCAT

Destin Middle School’s “Marlin Nation” greeted every student on the first day of FCAT with cheers and chants to get the students pumped up to give their best effort.

“FCAT was an easy and seamless week at Destin Middle School,” said Leah McGill, a fifth grade teacher.  “The kids enjoyed it and our Guidance Counselor, Jennifer Drew, did a marvelous job in making it seamless.  The administration really helped us keep up to date on the timeframe and how many days, how many months until the FCAT.  The teachers here used it as an opportunity to get the kids excited about the challenge of FCAT.  My favorite thing that Mr. Marello did was he provided t-shirts for all the teachers that said “Marlin Nation” and we greeted the children at the front and back of the school on the first day of FCAT.  It was so much fun.  The children were prepared and ready for the FCAT because of the joint effort of the administrators, teachers, and the students who were so motivated.”

“We approached the FCAT from a motivational stand point and we stressed flexibility,” said Charlie Marello, Destin Middle School Principal.  “With computer based testing, things are probably not going to go as scheduled.  I felt it was important for our faculty and staff to have the mindset going into it that we were going to remain flexible and that no matter what happened it was all going to work out because we were very well prepared and we had a plan.”

To get the students ready, a few weeks prior to the FCAT, Destin Middle School held what they called the DMS Boot Camp.

“The Boot Camp idea came out of our 8th grade team and then we took it school-wide,” said Marello.  “It was a whole theme of getting back to basics, focusing on effective test-taking strategies and utilizing the district pacing guides and FCAT test prep materials to be as prepared as possible.”

The Boot Camp was the catalyst for motivating the students the week of FCAT.

“The motivational piece was something that I was really worried about,” said Marello.  “Our students were just back from Spring Break and they were just going through the motions with very little effort and no enthusiasm.  So we surprised them and dressed in our camouflage DMS Boot Camp shirts and really kind of got them picked back up.  The culmination of that was the when the students arrived at school for the first day of FCAT, we were at all the drop off areas and the bus ramp greeting them in our Marlin Nation t-shirts, getting them excited about testing and being a DMS Marlin.”

“With the FCAT, it is pretty much being tested on review stuff so it is not hard,” said Daniel Fadida, a 5th grader at Destin Middle School.  “There was no reason to be stressed out about it.  In math we used the computer and in science we used paper packets.  In reading, it is simple; you just read a story and answer questions.”

Fadida said they reviewed a lot in class to get ready and felt that he was really prepared.

“The flexibility and the willingness to pitch in to make this happen in our school this year has been amazing,” said Jennifer Drew, Destin Middle School’s Guidance Counselor.  “Everybody has contributed in some way.”

To prepare the teachers for test day, Destin Middle School used a block of Professional Development training time to educate the teachers on all of the details for both the computer and paper based tests.

“There are a lot of details,” said Drew.  “If people do not understand the details and get to ask questions then on test day they do not know what to do.  During training, we were all there together, bringing up questions and brainstorming.  Training was a big thing for our school.”   

“The year is definitely the most spirited Destin Middle has ever been about the FCAT,” said Rachel McMullen, an 8th grader at Destin Middle School.  “The teachers have done a great job in preparing us and overall it was pretty good.  They told us to be relaxed and were very comforting about everything.”

“We are very proud of the efforts of all of our students, faculty and staff throughout the FCAT testing sessions” stated Marello. “This was truly a team effort from all of the stakeholders of Marlin Nation.”