Monday, January 26, 2015

Collier County Commissioners to vote on anti-Common Core resolution this week

The Agenda for Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting is out, and at the recommendation of Commissioner Tom Henning, an anti-Common Core resolution is on it:
Agenda Item 10.C.: Recommendation to adopt a Resolution petitioning the District School Board of Collier County, the Florida Legislature, and Governor Rick Scott to reclaim Florida’s educational sovereignty and return control of educational standards, curriculum, and student assessments to the local county school districts.
This Anti-Common Core Resolution did not originate with Commissioner Henning. It’s being sponsored by the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, which includes the Libertarian Party of Collier County. According to the Coalition’s website, it also includes the Southwest Florida Citizens Alliance, Florida Eagle Forum, the Collier Tea Party, the Tea Party Network, and more.

Last June, I wrote a two-part post titled “Common Core: An Issue for the School Board Elections?” I concluded that “candidates’ views about Common Core, as well as about charter schools, school vouchers, and the use of technology in the classroom, are relevant because a School Board is a bully pulpit from which to lobby and pressure the Governor and Legislature. The more School Boards that share the anti-Common Core view, the stronger the pressure they can put on the Legislature for change.”

The same can be said for City Councils and County Commissions. And now we’re seeing once again that elections have consequences.

In view of recent developments, I am re-posting that two-part post again today. In Part 1, I looked at three questions: what is Common Core, who developed the Common Core standards, and when and how did Florida get involved. In Part 2, I looked at the concerns being expressed about Common Core, and asked if the concerns are valid. I hope you will read and share both posts.

County Commissioners, elected in partisan elections, have no role to play in setting the legislative priorities for our School Board. I urge you to contact all five Collier County Commissioners TODAY, because the vote will be tomorrow, and tell them to vote NO on the anti-Common Core Resolution.
Commissioner Donna Fiala - DonnaFiala@colliergov.net - (239) 252–8601
Commissioner Georgia Hiller - GeorgiaHiller@colliergov.net - (239) 252–8602
Commissioner Tom Henning - TomHenning@colliergov.net - (239) 252–8605
Commissioner Penny Taylor - PennyTaylor@colliergov.net - (239) 252–8603
Commissioner Tim Nance - TimNance@colliergov.net - (239) 252–8604



Please share this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com and “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox. Thank you!

Common Core: An Issue for the School Board Elections? Part 1 (Originally posted 6/10/14)

I first became aware of the intense emotions and controversy over the Common Core State Standards (“Common Core,” “CCSS” or “the Standards”) at an information session for parents, teachers and community members at the Collier County School District Administrative Center in May 2013.

During the Q&A that followed, “the discussion got heated,” reported WINK News (putting it mildly), citing among the concerns raised at the meeting:
  • It takes away control at the local level.
  • We shouldn’t be “forced to be under the gun of the federal government.” 
What is Common Core and who developed it? When and how did Florida get involved? Are the concerns raised at that meeting valid? And should Common Core be an issue for the School Board elections?

What is Common Core?

Common Core is a set of education standards for the areas of English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics that were voluntarily adopted beginning in 2010 by 44 states, DC, four US territories and the U.S. Department of Defense schools.  (The states that have not adopted the Standards are Alaska, Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. Minnesota adopted the English Language Arts/Literacy Standards only.)

The Standards were designed to result in students graduating from high school “career- and college-ready,” i.e. able to meet employer expectations and/or be prepared for college-level work without needing remedial classes.

By way of background, the Common Core grew out of a 1983 report titled “A Nation at Risk” by a commission established by President Reagan.  That report called for setting standards for what students should know and be able to do and marked the starting point for standards-based education reform in the U.S.  Following publication of “A Nation at Risk,” individual states began adopting standards. In 2001, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act which strengthened requirements for the kinds of standards states set and required states to test students in specific grades and subjects, while leaving states free to set their own standards and create their own tests.

Who developed the Common Core Standards? 

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website (www.corestandards.org):
By the early 2000s, every state had developed and adopted its own learning standards that specify what students in grades 3-8 and high school should be able to do. Every state also had its own definition of proficiency, which is the level at which a student is determined to be sufficiently educated at each grade level and upon graduation. This lack of standardization was one reason why states decided to develop the Common Core State Standards…. 
The effort … was launched in 2009 by state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, through their membership in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. 
States across the country collaborated with teachers, researchers, and leading experts to design and develop the Common Core State Standards. Each state independently made the decision to adopt the Common Core. Local teachers, principals, and superintendents lead the implementation of the Common Core in their states. The federal government was not involved in the development of the Standards.
When and how did Florida get involved?

Florida got involved in two ways: by participating in the development of the CCSS, and by applying for a $700 million Race to the Top grant and including in the grant application a plan to adopt the CCSS and meet certain requirements as to assessment.

Participation in development of the Standards
As part of the nationwide movement to develop standards for learning that followed the publication of “A Nation at Risk,” the Florida Legislature had adopted its own “Sunshine State Standards” in 1996. Those standards identified what Florida public school students should know and be able to do during each grade cluster in the areas of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, health and physical education, and foreign language.

The Florida Board of Education then adopted a six-year cycle of review and revision, including the alignment of the standards with assessments, instructional materials, professional development and teacher licensure exams. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) was first administered in 1998 to measure student progress in meeting the Sunshine State Standards. The test results formed the basis for the school accountability program.

Fast-forward ten years to the early discussions about the need for common standards. “Florida was well represented in the development of the [Common Core State Standards] from the earliest conversations to the now adopted Florida Standards,” according to a June 2014 report by the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (“The Florida Standards: What they mean. Why they matter. What’s happening now.” or the “CFEF Report”):
Experts from across higher education—including the University of Florida, Harvard and UC Berkeley—as well as state departments of education (with Florida as a lead state), local educators, parents and students all developed and vetted the CCSS. In fact, Florida’s Next Generation process of standards development guided the CCSS development process and was cited as a resource for writers. Florida educators were continually tapped as content experts, writers and reviewers from start to finish.
(Note: Whether or not there was enough teacher involvement is a topic of much debate, including here in Collier County.)

Application for a Race to the Top grant
As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or Stimulus), through a program called Race to the Top, $4.35 billion of federal funding was made available to states to pursue a plan to improve student achievement. As explained in the Race to the Top Executive Summary, Race to the Top was
a competitive grant program designed to encourage and reward States that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform; achieving significant improvement in student outcomes, including making substantial gains in student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving high school graduation rates, and ensuring student preparation for success in college and careers; and implementing ambitious plans in four core education reform areas:
  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy; 
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction; 
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and 
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools. 
While no state was mandated to adopt the Standards to receive the funding, many states chose not to pursue the federal grant and others chose not to adopt the Standards, Florida chose to both apply for a Race to the Top grant and adopt the Common Core Standards.

Florida won a $700 million grant to be spent in three areas outlined in the grant application, including implementation of the Common Core Standards. Florida adopted the Common Core in 2010 and began implementing it in the 2011-2012 school year, beginning with kindergarten and first grade with a gradual phasing-in for higher grades and eventual full implementation in 2013-14.

Recent developments in Florida

By 2013, concerns and misconceptions about the Standards, and the assessments and data-collection that would be used to measure progress toward meeting them, had started to build nation-wide, including in Florida. (The May 2013 information session I attended may have been a reaction to the growing unrest.)

In response, per the CFEF Report, “Governor Rick Scott directed the Florida Department of Education to pull back from the consortia of states committed to [the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment Florida had chosen] and to hold a series of public hearings on the Standards in late 2013.”

More than 19,000 comments were made in person or 
submitted online. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart contracted for a review of the comments by outside experts and ultimately recommended 99 changes to the Standards. Per the CFEF Report:
These changes were predominately made through the addition of Calculus Standards in Math with cursive writing being added to the English/Language Arts Standards. The State Board of Education [in February 2014] unanimously voted to adopt these revised standards.  (Note: The addition of Calculus Standards does not mean students are required to take this level of math, they simply define the expectations for students who choose to do so.) 
While the changes and additions are highly consistent with CCSS, they now include standards specific to our state. Hence, they are now known as the Florida Standards, which will also encompass already adopted standards in other subject areas such as science and social studies.
Specifically, the Florida Standards now consist of Mathematics and Language Arts Standards modified as described and adopted in March 2014; standards for Science, Social Studies, Physical Education and Health Education, adopted in 2008; and standards for World Languages and Fine Arts, adopted in 2010. For the specifics of these Standards, click here.

************


In my next post, I’ll share my answers to the questions “Are the concerns valid?” and “Should Common Core be an issue for the School Board elections?” In the meantime, I hope this review has been informative.

Common Core: An Issue for the School Board Elections? Part 2 (Originally posted 6/16/14)

In Part 1 of this post, I wrote about the Common Core State Standards, explaining what they are, how, why and by whom they were developed, and how Florida became involved with them.

I chose this topic because I believe opposition to the Common Core is likely to be one of the topics voters will be hearing about at some of the candidate forums, and I’m concerned that some readers may not be adequately informed. (I certainly wasn’t, before I began researching that post!)

As I tried to find out what was behind the opposition expressed at the May 2013 presentation I attended, I discovered that there is an anti-Common Core movement, not just locally but nationwide. Floridians Against Common Core Education and the SWFL Citizens Alliance are two of the groups I discovered.

Floridians Against Common Core Education is:
comprised of men and women from all over the state of Florida dedicated to conservative values derived from the Constitution of the United States. It is our constitutional right and duty to protect our children in the State of Florida from progressive liberal socialist Marxist ideologies. Thus we are bound by our unalienable rights to restore to all of Florida's classrooms what has been lost and will continue to be lost if conservative values are not restored, secured, and protected. 
Its website lists the Cato Institute, the Eagle Forum, Freedom Works, the Heritage Foundation, the Home School Legal Defense Assoc., the National Republican Party and Tea Party Patriots among those who oppose Common Core.

The SWFL Citizens Alliance lists three three “current initiatives”:


Collier County School Board Elections
Protect Your Right to Keep & Bear Arms
Stop Common Core

Its vision is “to inspire a rebirth of liberty in Southwest Florida.” Its mission is to provide a platform for

  • Educating citizens on the moral foundations that support the principles and values of a free society.
  • Involving citizens in learning about, discussing and influencing legislation.
  • Vetting candidates for office and then holding them accountable for their official conduct. [emphasis added]

The “Stop Common Core” link redirects to StopCommonCoreFlorida.com, which says “we must stop common core now!” because (among other reasons) it “Removes local control of education:”
Common Core standards are created and controlled by unelected and unaccountable Washington DC and state bureaucrats, funded primarily by the federal government, foundations, trade groups, and large corporations with financial interest in the computers, materials, and testing required for the implementation.”
These groups are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you might find if you research the “stop Common Core” movement. I urge you to do so. At a minimum, be aware of the issue and goals of these groups.

With that as background, here are my thoughts on the questions "Are the concerns of those who oppose Common Core valid?," ”Who funded development of the standards?” and "Should Common Core be an issue in the School Board elections?"

Are the concerns valid?

Is Common Core a federal takeover of our local schools? Based on my research, the answer is no. As noted previously, the Standards were developed by a diverse group of experts from across the country. And in Florida, after holding public hearings, changes were made that actually added to the CCSS.

Per a June 2014 report by the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (“The Florida Standards: What they mean. Why they matter. What’s happening now.” or the “CFEF Report”):
It is important to remember that states voluntarily adopted the Standards. Equally important is to know the difference between standards – what we want students to know
and be able to do at each grade level – and curriculum. The Standards provide the “What” we expect students to know in each grade; decisions about the “How” in terms of curriculum and instruction methods are made at the local level. [emphasis added]
Was the State Board of Education "forced to be under the gun of the federal government” as stated at the information session I attended? I believe this assertion relates to the requirements of the Race to the Top funding that states adopt “standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy,”  “demonstrate achieving significant improvement in student outcomes, including making substantial gains in student achievement, closing achievement gaps,” and build “data systems that measure student growth and success.”

But as stated previously, states were not required to adopt the Standards to receive the funding. Nor were the Governor and Florida Legislature required to apply for it. They chose to apply for the grant, took the money, and then spent it. Those who have a problem with the decision should blame the state Legislature, not the Federal government.

Who funded development of the standards? (and is that a problem?)

StopCommonCoreFlorida.com charges that the standards were “funded primarily by the federal government, foundations, trade groups, and large corporations with financial interest in the computers, materials, and testing required for the implementation.”

A recent Washington Post article, “How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution,” is illuminating. It states that in 2008, Bill and Melinda Gates met with Gene Wilhoit, “director of a national group of state school chiefs,” and David Coleman, “an emerging evangelist for the standards movement.” From the article:
What followed was one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes…. 
The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards. 
Money flowed to policy groups on the right and left, funding research by scholars of varying political persuasions who promoted the idea of common standards. Liberals at the Center for American Progress and conservatives affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council who routinely disagree on nearly every issue accepted Gates money and found common ground on the Common Core….
The political fall-out, though slow to develop, has been significant. The WaPo article continued:
The movement grew so quickly and with so little public notice that opposition was initially almost nonexistent. That started to change last summer, when local tea party groups began protesting what they viewed as the latest intrusion by an overreaching federal government — even though the impetus had come from the states. In some circles, Common Core became known derisively as “Obamacore.” 
Since then, anti-Common Core sentiment has intensified, to the extent that it has become a litmus test in the Republican Party ahead of the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination process.
Personally I don’t have a problem with how the effort was funded.  But this article helps put the anti-Common Core sentiment into perspective.

Should Common Core be an issue in the School Board elections?

According to Wikipedia, at least 12 states that adopted the Standards have since introduced legislation to repeal them outright, and Indiana has since withdrawn from them.

So in my view, candidates’ views about Common Core, as well as about charter schools, school vouchers, and the use of technology in the classroom, are relevant because a School Board is a bully pulpit from which to lobby and pressure the Governor and Legislature. The more School Boards that share the anti-Common Core view, the stronger the pressure they can put on the Legislature for change.

Conclusion

We may hear a lot of talk about Common Core, testing and assessment in the months leading up to the August 26 school board elections.

Regardless of how the effort was funded, and while there are differing opinions about the Standards’ implementation and assessment, there is widespread support for them among a diverse group of Florida stakeholders. These include, per the CFEF Report:


You, the reader, must look at the standards, how they were developed and how their development was funded.

Then you must decide if you want a School Board that supports Common Core (as modified in the Florida Standards), or one that opposes it.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Recent focus on textbooks and Common Core: why now, and what’s at stake

There’s been a lot of talk, media coverage and misinformation in recent weeks about textbook review committees, censorship, and the Common Core standards. The editorial in Thursday’s Naples Daily News ("Textbooks not key Collier board issue") made some important points. But there’s more to the story: Where is all this focus on textbooks coming from? Why now? And what’s at stake?

In this post, I’ll share what I think is driving these developments. I’ll also share what I’ve learned about how textbooks were chosen in the past and what might change as the result of a Florida law passed last year.

My main message, as always, is that elections have consequences.

New School Board members are keeping their campaign promises
Last summer, several School Board candidates, including Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter, signed a document presumptuously titled “Contract with Collier County, Florida Voters,” posted here on the website of the Southwest Florida Citizens’ Alliance. This organization, which describes itself as “a coalition of citizens and groups, [that] unites to advance the ideals and principles of liberty including, but not limited to, individual rights, free markets and limited government through education, outreach and community involvement,” is committed to “stopping Common Core.”

By signing this document, Ms. Donalds and Ms. Lichter pledged that during one or more of the first three regular Board meetings after their election to office, they would bring up for vote seven “major reforms.” These “reforms” are driving much of the recent activity:
FIRST, authorize the development and implementation of an external audit and review process (that takes into account public input) for all textbooks (including all newly purchased Common Core District textbooks and materials) to eliminate the use of all textbooks and materials that are factually inaccurate or politically indoctrinate our students at the taxpayer’s expense and amend the FY14-FY16 Collier County Public Schools Strategic Plan to reflect this.

SECOND, authorize the District to lobby at the state level against: (i) Common Core state standards and assessments, and (ii) data mining of our students.

FOURTH, eliminate BYOD in our K though 5 programs and amend the FY14- FY16 Strategic Plan to reflect this.

FIFTH, return math flash cards and memorization of multiplication tables to our elementary school programs and amend the FY14-FY16 Strategic Plan to reflect this.

SIXTH, return the phonics method of teaching reading and writing of English to our K through 2 programs and amend the FY14-FY16 Strategic Plan to reflect this.
Ms. Donalds’ and Ms. Lichter’s pledge to bring these matters up for a vote during their first three School Board meetings explains why textbook review and Common Core have been the focus of so much attention and public comment by members of the SWFL Citizens Alliance, the Libertarian Party of Collier County, and related groups at the post-election School Board meetings. It also ties in with the Anti-Common Core Resolution that the Marco Island City Council and the Board of County Commissioners have agreed to consider at upcoming meetings. (See here and here.)

Recent textbook review sessions were not sanctioned by the School Board
I became aware that a group of community members was reviewing textbooks through two NBC–2 TV news reports:
December 29, 2014: “A group of citizens is on a mission to read textbooks being used by the Collier County School District… (Read more and watch the video)

December 30, 2014: “An effort to review district textbooks is sparking political controversy for the board member organizing it. Conservative board member Kelly Lichter is leading the charge to read through district material, but people are mad that she didn’t reach out to a more politically diverse group of people….” (Read more and watch the video)
Concerns about censorship quickly arose as news of these textbook reviews spread.

I learned at this week’s School Board meeting that Ms. Lichter’s hosting of this textbook review was not sanctioned by the Board. In fact, concerns were expressed by other Board members about security risks taken and costs incurred as a result of the self-appointed review committee’s meetings at the District Offices.

Choosing textbooks
Florida school boards have long had the duty to provide adequate instructional materials for all students, and to adopt courses of study for use in the schools of the district. (See F.S.1006.28.)

Responsibility for reviewing, selecting and adopting textbooks and other instructional materials and providing school districts a vetted list from which to choose was tasked by the Florida Legislature to the state Department of Education.

But as explained in the Naples Daily News editorial:
During the past legislative session, there was a push to hand over textbook review to districts rather than keeping it in state control. That didn’t pass. What did pass was a measure, Senate Bill 864, that Gov. Rick Scott signed, that enables parents to object to texts used in schools. At one point during the legislative process, there was a requirement for districts to set up an instructional materials review committee. It changed during the legislative process to allow — not require — districts to set up a panel.
Yes, elections have consequences.

SB864 gives school boards an important choice. They may continue to select instructional materials from those vetted by the State Department of Education as in the past. They can bypass the state review and vetting and implement their own local program. Or they can implement a hybrid of the two options.

If a school board chooses to implement its own program, it is required by law to:
  • Adopt rules addressing, in part,
    • the processes, criteria, and requirements for the selection of reviewers,
    • a thorough review of curriculum content,
    • the review and selection of materials.
  • Specify the qualifications for an instructional materials reviewer and the process for selecting reviewers.
  • List a reviewer’s duties and responsibilities.
  • Establish the process by which instructional materials are adopted by the school board, including making recommended materials available for review online and providing a process for public comment.
And more. You can read SB864 here.

Required changes to School Board policy
School Board Policy 2510 - Adoption of Textbooks must now be changed because SB864 shifts responsibility for selection of instructional material from the superintendent to the school board, and gives the board a choice as to how materials will be reviewed, recommended, selected and adopted.

According to the draft revised policy available online, the District will propose a hybrid approach in which the Board has the right to “consider, review, and adopt state instructional materials submitted for adoption,” and also has the right to “consider, review, and adopt instructional materials that are not state adopted.”

Details about the proposed composition of the Instructional Materials Review Committees and qualifications of and process for selection of committee members are also included in the draft policy statement.

Much is at stake
There is nothing more important to the future of our community and to the education of Collier’s children than the decisions our School Board will make in the coming weeks and months.
  • Will our School District continue to select instructional materials from those vetted by the State Department of Education, implement their own local program, or - as recommended by the District - implement a hybrid of the two options?
  • Who will select the members of the textbook review committees?
  • How many will there be?
  • What qualifications must they have?
  • Must their decisions be unanimous, or will a majority- or super-majority vote of committee members be sufficient?
If you care about the future of our community, take the time to become informed. Read the draft proposed policy that will presented at the January 20 Workshop. Carefully consider the choices our five School Board members will be making, and - importantly - let your voice be heard.

The District’s School Board Workshop takes place on Tuesday, January 20, at 5:30pm at the District Administration Building, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples (get directions). I hope to see you there.

___________________

Please share this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com and “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox

Friday, January 9, 2015

Give credit where credit is due

In my last blog post, I wrote about the Collier County School District’s 2013–14 high school report card.

I wrote that post in response to the anger about high stakes/high frequency testing that was directed at the School Board by members of the public at several recent School Board meetings. See, for example, “School board gets an earful on mandated testing,” Naplesnews.com, 12/16/14.

I don’t know if there’s too much testing or not. I do know that it’s the state Legislature and state Board of Education, not the School Board and the Superintendent, that are responsible for the testing mandates, and that our District’s teachers, principals and Superintendent are doing a great job educating Collier’s kids, as measured by the state standards, despite what some say is an onerous amount of testing.

In response to a request by the newly-elected School Board members at the November 18, 2014, School Board Organizational meeting, a Board workshop about the 2014–15 assessment process was held last month. A similar presentation had been made to the Board at its April 8, 2014 meeting.

Bottom line: the testing program is required by state law (F.S. 1008.22), which says:
The Commissioner of Education shall design and implement a statewide, standardized assessment program aligned to the core curricular content established in the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards…. Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools….
As I learned from the School Board workshop and further research, Florida’s system of school improvement and accountability was first introduced in 1991 as a result of the Florida Legislature’s School Improvement and Accountability Act of 1991. That law ultimately resulted in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and the Sunshine State Standards.

I was stunned to learn from the workshop how much the state mandates have changed over a relatively short period of time. I can only imagine how difficult it has been for school administrators and teachers to keep up, which makes me even more impressed with our District’s high school grades.

These are just some of the changes to state law, as presented at the workshop by Luis Solano, Collier Schools’ Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction:
  • 1995 - Identification of critically low-performing schools began, based on reading, math and writing performance for two years.
  • 1999 - Florida’s A - F school grading system began, based on grades 4, 8 and 10 reading, math and writing FCAT results, plus additional criteria, including dropout rates, attendance and discipline data. Results of students with disabilities and English language learners were not included.
  • 2002 - In addition to FCAT performance (50%), learning gains in reading and math (50%) were included in the grade.
  • 2005 - Results of students with disabilities and English language learners were added to the learning gains calculation.
  • 2007 - Science results and bonus points for high school retakes were added.
  • 2010 - New metrics (acceleration, graduation rate and college readiness) as measured by SAT, ACT and PERT tests) were added to account for 50% of a high school’s grade.
  • 2012 - The FCAT was replaced by FCAT 2.0; end-of-course (EOC) assessments were added.
  • 2013 - New science FCAT 2.0 and geometry and biology EOC assessments were added.
  • 2014 - High school grading scale was adjusted with higher grade floors.

Too much testing or not, it’s out of their hands
Following Mr. Solano’s presentation and public comments, the School Board members discussed what they had heard. Board member Roy Terry said, “It’s obvious that what we’re doing now is too much.”

But as Mr. Terry, other Board members and Dr. Patton said, if change is to be made, it has to come from Tallahassee. Board Chair Kathy Curatolo said, “Testing has really gone overboard, but the way to make change is … [to] work together through our system of governing in Florida. Talk to legislators…”

My reason for writing this post is to point out the difference between the things the School Board and superintendent can control, and those that have been imposed on them by the people we voters elected: the state senators and representatives who wrote and passed the bills, and the Governor who signed the bills into law.

If parents, teachers and community members think there’s too much testing, they should direct their anger and frustration at the people who can make changes: their elected representatives. These are their names; they can be contacted through their websites or by phone.

At the same time, let's not lose sight of the fact that our teachers, principals and Superintendent are doing a great job meeting an onerous set of state requirements. Let's give credit where credit is due.

___________________
Please forward this post to friends, sign up to receive future posts by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, and "like" my Facebook Page, with its more frequent, shorter posts, at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox.