Florida dropped from number 8 to 28 in public school rankings.

So what?

What do state rankings mean in this era of high-stakes testing? That one state’s students are the best at answering algebraic equations? That some students are more proficient than others in comprehending boring reading passages? That students in Massachusetts or Georgia or wherever are better than Florida students in answering multiple-choice questions?

Who cares about being the best at that game?

Being obsessed with these rankings only distracts us from the real issue – that politicians, who know nothing about education, have ruined our schools and the learning environment.

Recently, I participated in a committee meeting comprised of school leaders, community members, business owners and others to discuss a new high school being built in the area.

The committee was broken up into subcommittees where we gathered weekly, huddled over little conference tables, and discussed possible locations for the new school, possible academic programs and the needs of the community. At the end of the meeting we shared our ideas.

The most important findings of the day came from the Workforce Requirements Group. Their job was to find gaps or holes in the workforce and then report back to everyone else.

In a nutshell:

  1. We need students skilled in manufacturing because there is a huge gap in that area.
  2. We need to provide students with sales, marketing and technology skills to operate in the service-based community of SW Florida.
  3. We need more vocational, internship and apprentice opportunities for students so they have an opportunity to seek employment with companies who are looking for these skills.

These findings are not new; we hear experts communicate these same conclusions all the time. In fact, on a regular basis, you’ll hear Barrack Obama, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, David Coleman and Arne Duncan all talk about gaps in the workforce and how we have to provide students the tools and opportunities to fill those gaps.

Consider this though, high school students, who might thrive in a program geared towards manufacturing, are currently stuck in remedial classes for days and weeks on end preparing for reading compression and algebra tests – tests they might never pass. These tests and the remedial classes that go with them are part of the education reform efforts of Bush, Obama, Gates, Coleman and Duncan.

In 2014 only 55% of Florida’s 10th graders scored a level 3 or higher. That means 45% of our high school students across the state are in remedial reading classes. These classes take the place of electives and other opportunities like vocational training and trades. So when do we expect all this manufacturing training to happen, after school? Because I can tell you, after being beaten down all day in boring reading and math classes, the last thing a high school student is going to want to do is stay in school longer for vocational training.

The second finding of the Workforce Requirements Group – providing students with skills and opportunities in marketing and technology – must be closely examined, especially since we live in a world where your marketing and social media presence is as important as your resume. When do students have time for innovative marketing and tech programs when three quarters of their day is spent sitting in desks, preparing for subjects in British Lit, Geometry, Physics and History?

Not to say those classes aren’t important, but they certainly don’t fill holes in the workforce. Those classes do, however, align with expensive high-stakes tests students fail over and over again. This may generate lots of money for testing company executives, who later line the pockets of Bush, Obama, Gates, Coleman and Duncan, but it doesn’t propel students into the marketing and tech stratosphere.

And internships? Are you kidding me? Internships and apprentices don’t align with rankings in an outdated school system. The more students we take out of the traditional school day, the further we slip in these traditional rankings.

I laugh at education reformers and leaders, who talk about our ranking in the world and then in the same breath talk about how we have to prepare our students for the workforce and the real world, as if we can have both. We can either prepare kids to be racing to the top of multiple-choice tests that assess traditional subjects – reading, writing and arithmetic – or we can let go of traditional ranking systems altogether and focus more on innovation and cooperation.

So I don’t care about Florida’s dip or plummet in public school rankings. I don’t care if we’re 28th, 8th or 128th in a race that measures our ability to achieve in irrelevant areas.

I would rather see our students achieve by taking a big idea and bringing it to fruition over the course of a school year. I would rather see students form their own committees and tell us, the adults, what they want in a high school. Rather than compete in a race, I would like to see students collaborate and innovate. Unfortunately, that type of learning can’t be ranked or even assessed on a multiple-choice test. That type of learning doesn’t make money for testing companies and education reformers.

4 Responses

  1. Norma J F Harrison

    People need all to enjoy life, to do whatever feels good and makes sense to do. Read some of what I’ve written to see where and when to do that. School is not the right place for us to do it.

  2. Norma J F Harrison

    School is our Owners’ device to control us. Telling us we have to prepare ourselves to fit the niches THey devise for their profit is the evidence that we need to avoid to every extent possible, THeir advice, THeir institutions, THeir call for workers to fit THeir requirements. School is not educational. It is a tool to create conformation to the systems capitalism has produced.

  3. linda morris

    That is the problem with the educational system. You got business people making decisions about education reforms instead of those who are in the trenches with the education issues. If all the knowledgeable business geniuses are the experts examine how the playing fields for these ” jobs” still only include white educated men instead of minorities and women? If this educational reform movement is such a neccesity why do you have teachers being pushed out of jobs teaching some of the skills that made the business geniuses that the people they are today? You and I both know that educational reforms are about politics and money. No one cares about educating our children. The game has already been outlined who will have what jobs. I once heard that in some countries, children know what job they will have based on their upbringing. Well we can add the USA to that list. Education is not important but what is important is selecting certain people for high paying jobs and giving the low paying job to the people at the bottom. Be true with it.


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