Florida leadership needs to get a clue when it comes to accountability and assessment.

We’ve been hearing a lot from political leaders lately regarding the testing revolt happening around Florida and all over the country. But the response from our leaders regarding protests, boycotts and overall dissatisfaction with the system, has been disappointing.

There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most obvious reason is that our “leaders” are completely clueless.

A concrete example of this cluelessness was conveyed when Rick Scott said to a group of reporters, “We have to have a good measurement system, but we have to make sure we don’t have too much of it.”

What does that even mean? What is a “good” measurement system? Does he even know?

If he were in my class I would do what I always do when students give me a superficial, low-level answer to a complex question. I would ask Mr. Scott, “What does a ‘good’ measurement system look like.”

I’m willing to bet, he wouldn’t be able to answer that question.

Maybe his Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart knows. Although she is clueless as well having said time after time, “If we just teach the standards, the assessments will take care of themselves.”

Anyone in a classroom knows that is one of the biggest lies ever uttered regarding education and accountability.

In fact, all we have done for the last 15 years in education has been focusing on the standards and the assessments of those standards. However, the needle hasn’t moved, and according to the Florida Department of Education statewide reading comparison report, from 2011-2014 reading scores for third graders have not advanced above 57% passing. For 10th graders, the needle hasn’t moved above 54%.

I encourage anyone questioning the built in failure rate in these tests to go to the FLDOE website and look at the proficiency scores of the last ten or fifteen years. There you will discover, reading proficiency rates haven’t improved and over 40% of our students fail year after year.

Apparently this is the ‘good’ measurement system Rick Scott was referring to in his statement to reporters.

Scott’s problem is that he is making education decisions without any experience in education. And his right-hand woman, Pam Stewart, is so far removed from the classroom she wouldn’t know academic progress if it stared her in the face.

Academic progress cannot always be seen in quantitative data, or numbers. To truly see how students are doing and how they feel about their education, one would have to ask them and perhaps collect some qualitative data, which is just as important.

But all Stewart and Scott want are numbers. They want the data, because, data doesn’t lie (another statement thrown around by educational leaders who are completely clueless about the unique nature of every student, teacher and classroom). In addition, many of our education “leaders” like Stewart are data and accountability obsessed.

Well since the data doesn’t lie, lets take a look at some additional statewide comparison data:

  • From 2011 – 2014, only 57% of third graders were proficient in reading.
  • In the last 4 years the only increase in 3rd grade math scores was from 2011 to 2012 when 3rd grade proficiency went from 56 – 58%. The following three years the scores stayed at 58%.
  • 10th grade reading scores have gone from 52% to 55% over the last four years.
  • From 2012 – 2014 4th graders proficiency rate went from 48% – 57% (this is actually a significant increase); 8th graders were went from 52% – 56% (not so significant); and 10th graders went from 60% – 64% (again, not very significant).
  • Although there have been some gains in Algebra EOC scores for lower grade levels, 10th graders never rose above 58% proficiency. Since the EOCs are 30% of a student’s grade and required for graduation, this is a dismal situation for our 10th grade students.

So there you have it – a bit of data from our “good” measurement system.

One of the biggest problems with the leadership of Scott and Stewart, is that they have NEVER taught in a classroom under this type of scrutiny and pressure. In fact, Stewart started teaching in 1975 and left the classroom in 1981 to become a guidance counselor. In 1975, there was no VAM, no EOCs, no FCAT, no scrutiny.

And Scott has zero education experience. He basically takes orders from Jeb Bush, another “leader” without a clue.

I wonder what Rick Scott and Pam Stewart’s VAM score would be if they were judged under current accountability conditions.

If we were to judge them on the current data and if the data doesn’t lie, what do these scores say about their leadership? What would their VAM score were calculated by the fact that 40% of students in FL are consistently not proficient in reading?

Plug that into your VAM algorithm and smoke it.

The point is, we have been focusing on standards and assessment this entire time; so shouldn’t those numbers increase even a little?

Maybe it would help if our “leaders” got a clue by listening to teachers when they say these tests are crippling education and classroom instruction. Perhaps our “leaders” should stop saying things like, “good measurement system.” And, “just teach the standards and everything will be fine.”

Listen to students who are crying out saying they are completely tired, overwhelmed and stressed about testing that now takes up over half of the school year and ‘good’ measurement system that consistently fails over 40% of students year after year.

I would also suggest, rather than sitting in an office all day and blindly following bad education policy, take your “leadership” into the schools and stay a while. Walking in for a photo op and then leaving 15 minutes later is not observing what is happening in schools. Sit down with teachers and listen to what they are saying.

Or maybe, and this will never happen, our leaders should teach for a year. Maybe then Ms. Stewart can see how things have changed since 1975.

Our “leaders” may discover that the data isn’t always an accurate representation of what students know and how effective teachers are. They may discover that we can teach to the standards all day every day and test scores will not change. They may discover this type of “good” measurement is actually quite detrimental for the growth and development of our kids. If they listen long enough they may be able to forgo the useless sound bites and actually do something an effective leader would do – stand up and do the right thing, no matter what.

2 Responses

  1. Darcey

    Remember that this is all part of the design. Our students are not failing; they can read and compute; the tests are part of a much larger plan to “prove” that public education is failing. This fits the DEformers’ agenda perfectly. The best thing we can do is stop supplying them with data by refusing to test.

  2. Susan Westley

    Thank you for your fight for our children. I am a former kindergarten teacher who retired from the classroom before I was ready. Like you, I felt that the educational environment for our young children was so completely inappropriate. I’ve been writing my government officials (federal, state and local) for over 10 years now with no results. I have provided reams of research to back up my assertions, and they will not (really cannot) provide me research to back up the developmentally inappropriate programs put in place.

    Please see the latest letter I have written to the Florida Secretary of Education and State School Board below:

    Did you hear that collective gasp that rippled throughout Florida the day the Lee County School Board voted to opt out of state testing?

    It may have been ill-timed, but it should have been a wakeup cry to all who represent us in Tallahassee.

    Does anyone in our state government realize how inappropriate many of these tests are, especially in our early childhood classrooms? Does anyone care?

    I have always cringed at those photo ops near election time. A candidate standing next to a teacher or sitting and reading to a kindergarten classroom. The tired old, “I’m for teachers and students” line spouted behind enormous grins. Why is it we see these only when someone is campaigning? Once in Tallahassee promises for better education are forgotten.

    I have been writing my school board in Collier County for years regarding the developmentally inappropriate environment in our early childhood classrooms. But to no avail. They continue to point the finger at Tallahassee and laws made by our government that “tie their hands.”

    So much has been taken away from our young children (kindergarten, grades 1 and 2) in the past ten years.

    First recess, depriving them of time needed to interact with each other in a safe and, dare I say, fun environment. A time to run and jump and develop those gross motor skills so important to their physical development. There is much research available lauding the value of recess. I have yet to find research against this valuable part of childhood.

    Then, you took away play centers like blocks, dress-up and painting from our kindergarten classrooms. These essentials foster creativity, problem solving, learning of math skills, and interaction between children of all ethnicities. Our young children are concrete learners, yet they are now expected to deal with abstract learning and ideas.

    Last, by not least, you have taken away their entire first month of school. In this most precious month our teachers should be concentrating on building the foundation of love of learning, the wonder found in books, and in kindergarten, the routine of the classroom. They should be untethered and allowed to help children blossom in their creativity. But, you know what they are doing, because of laws passed by our state government? They are testing. TESTING five and six year old children. It’s called the FAIR test – talk about an oxymoron.

    In my opinion testing in the early grades should be eliminated COMPLETELY. And it should be done NOW and not just because of computer glitches, but because they are inappropriate and a waste of time. My school board tells me that they do not have the ability to change things. Do you?

    I have been writing the governor and my representatives in Tallahassee, but all I get (when they are actually acknowledged) are form letters back that say something like: “Thank you for your interest in education in Florida. Governor – fill in the blank – is concerned about the children of our state. Please look at his/her website to see all he/she is doing.” No one will address my concerns. It is so frustrating.

    Lee County’s vote to opt out. Ill timed, yes. But, it should be a wakeup call for our representatives in Tallahassee.


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