The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Florida Superintendents Revolt Against Testing Madness

on October 26, 2015

Today’s post is the major portion of an article in yesterday’s New York Times.  In my view the revolt of school district superintendents in Florida against the use of test scores to rate schools, students and teachers is a major step in the right direction.  In other states, such as New York, similar revolts are growing and putting pressure on legislatures to change their  unreasonable mandates.  In addition, parent  voices against testing are increasing, and even President Obama made a statement this past weekend favoring the reduction of testing.  His suggestions were both too vague and too mild, but at least he has become aware that the testing mania is a serious problem for our country, not a blessing.

I haven’t posted the entire article here because it is very long and covers the history of testing in Florida. However, you can read it by following the link at the bottom of this post.


When protests from parents and teachers erupted against the new Common Core tests here, Florida thought it had a solution: It dropped the tests. But it abruptly switched sources for the exams, hoping the substitute would be more palatable


.

Now, nearly six months after students finished taking their exams, Florida faces an even worse rebellion, led by the state’s 67 school superintendents. In speeches, letters to the editor and appeals to state officials, they are arguing that the tests were flawed — first, because they were developed for Utah schools and based on the curriculum taught there, and second, because of a string of disruptive technical glitches when they were rolled out here.

The superintendents are challenging the state’s plan to use the scores to give schools grades from A to F and to influence some teachers’ evaluations. Standing behind them are the Florida PTA, the state’s School Boards Association, teachers and administrators.

The scores have not been released because state officials have not yet set grading standards, but the dispute has already boiled over. Under a preliminary recommendation, little more than half of Florida’s schoolchildren would pass the new math and English exams in most grades. With some members of the Board of Education pushing for even tougher scoring, the grades could drop further.

“This is probably the most important issue facing all of us,” Alberto M. Carvalho, the Miami-Dade County schools superintendent, said at a recent school board meeting. “The fight is not over. But I can tell you the state seems pretty adamant in moving forward as quickly as possible, even in the face of incomplete, inadequate, possibly corrupted, invalid and unreliable data.”

Framing it as a battle over the future of accountability in schools, Mr. Carvalho added, “If there was ever a time to press the pause button, this is the time.”

The state has already suspended most direct penalties associated with the new tests. Students’ scores will not be used to hold them back a grade, and school grades will not be used to punish failing schools.

But superintendents and others are angry that the state plans to move forward with the school grades at all, and to use student scores as a factor in some teacher evaluations. School leaders want the scores to be used simply as a baseline to better measure learning gains in next year’s scores.

For Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, and Republican-controlled Legislature, this year’s clash is the latest over an accountability system that was pioneered in Florida by former Gov. Jeb Bush and has long served as a model for other states.

Last year, lawmakers and state officials here, like their peers in other states, were criticized over the adoption of the Common Core standards. But they were also faulted for increasing, little by little, the consequences tied to low or high test scores.

“I’m just frustrated as a parent,” said Joseph Gebara, who has two children in public schools and is the head of the PTA for Miami-Dade County, the fourth-largest school district in the country. “In the state of Florida, you wonder, is anybody listening?”

A version of this article appears in print on October 26, 2015, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Superintendents in Florida Say Tests Failed State’s Schools, not Vice Versa.

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