Call Cindy Hamilton The Bus Driver, because she just took a bunch of Florida Legislators to school.

On January 29, 2015 she addressed the Orange County Legislative Delegation. The legislators on this panel serve the Orlando area. Ms. Hamilton, one of the founders of Opt Out Orlando, began as she detailed the circumstances of one student’s current situation. He has a 2.9 GPA, has met all the requirements for graduation, but cannot pass the FCAT. Therefore, he will not graduate. Most of the legislators in the room were unmoved.

The video is provided below or click this link.

The first person to respond to Ms. Hamilton was Florida Representative Mike Miller. He asked, “Have we determined if opting out is illegal?”

It’s pretty scary when a representative asks an activist if something is legal or not, because he should already know. He’s the lawmaker.

Graciously, Cindy educated him on how the Florida statute reads: schools and students are required to participate in the state assessment. She also said that that our resistance is, in fact, participating. She went on to say that the school has abided by the law by giving the test to the student; the student has abided by the law by sitting for the test and refusing to answer any questions. Nowhere in the statute does it say students have to answer any questions. He seemed more confused after that explanation.

For more information on this process, watch our webinar on opting out of the test HERE.

And then we get to Senator Kelli Stargel. Where do I begin?

Ms. Stargel first says that she believes her children are brilliant, but that others may not. She said that is why we need a test to remove the subjectivity from the process of promoting or graduating students. She seemed to think high-stakes assessments were the most objective way to determine if a student was proficient or not.

That’s when Cindy Hamilton discussed the need for a true portfolio – a representation of a body of work, to see what a student knows, over the course of an entire school year.

To that Senator Stargel said, while a portfolio sounds good, the portfolio is determined by the subjectivity of “a person”.

Which is actually true. But the person Ms. Stargel is referring to, is a teacher – an educator, who is with the student everyday and knows what that student can or cannot do. That person is a professional, whom we hired to teach in a classroom. If Ms. Stargel cannot trust the subjectivity of a teacher, why do we have schools?

Ms. Stargel’s current solution to the subjectivity happening in the classroom is a high-stakes test, which only takes a snap shot of one day in one moment in time. Exactly how is that objective?

Ms. Stargel then went on to say the test is our only ability to assess whether a student has, “learned the knowledge.”

As I watched I yelled at the YouTube video broadcasting the delagation, “Can we get an educator on this panel and fast, please?” I continued yelling, “How does one learn knowledge?”

Students gain knowledge through learning. But I’m sure that’s what Ms. Stargel meant.

Anyway, Senator Stargel also said that when she toured a school, earlier that day, she was told, “the teachers just teach the information and the assessments take care of themselves.”

People who think these assessments “take care of themselves” have no idea what they’re talking about. The cofounder of Opt Out Orlando let her know that by saying, “We are anticipating a 70% failure rate based on other states that have had a full implementation year of the current test.”

Let that sink in for a second…70% failure rate.

Representative Jennifer Sullivan was one of the only people on that side of the room with any sense or humility. She wanted to be sure she understood exactly what Ms. Hamilton was communicating. Sullivan asked Cindy, “In essence, are you basically saying that you want there to be no test that high-stakes are associated with?”

Yes, Ms. Sullivan; that is exactly what we want.

Cindy Hamilton clarified, “I want a test that is going to inform instruction, that will be a tool for the teacher to use…I want that test.” She went on, “We want authentic assessments. We want assessments that have been developed with educators and we want the high-stakes removed.”

For you politicians on the panel, authentic means reliable, dependable, true, genuine. You know, all those things you aren’t.

It became terrifying clear when Senator Andy Gardiner spoke, that we were dealing with politicians who just don’t get it.

Gardiner said, “We have to define high-stakes.” He then compared his high-stakes experience of taking a driver’s test, with a student’s high-stakes experience of being denied a diploma or being retained in the third grade. He actually said, “My driver’s test was high-stakes, because I didn’t want my parents driving me around anymore.” Quietly into her microphone I heard Ms. Hamilton whisper to herself, “Oh my God.” Clearly she was as shocked as I was by this guy’s complete and total arrogance and obliviousness.

He went on still, “Life is filled with high-stakes.” Then he used the term, irregardless. As I write this blog and type irregardless, a red line forms underneath it, because it isn’t a word. I’m interested to know how Mr. Gardiner would score on the FSA this march. He’d probably be part of the 70%.

In the end the chairman, Representative Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, a former educator, wrapped up the session. He assured Ms. Hamilton, and all of us that he is working with others, who truly care about what impacts students and education. He and Sullivan were two of the few who didn’t sound arrogant, pompous and flippant with our children’s education. However, I’m not sure if “Coach P” can offset the ignorance Senator Stargel and Senator Gardiner communicated with such delighted authority.

After it was over I thought what a waste of time. That’s a whole afternoon of Cindy’s life she’ll never get back. Then a wave of gratitude washed over me. I was appreciative that we have our own Orange County Representative, Ms. Cindy Hamilton, who is not only really smart and informed on these issues, but also willing to sit with people like this and have our backs, REGARDLESS of the outcome.

3 Responses

  1. Amy Henderson

    Thank you very much Cindy Hamilton! As a parent I am completely frustrated and feel powerless against the ‘money backed’ politicians that could really care less about helping our kids achieve.

  2. Patsy

    I am a grandmother, and I too thank you Cindy for speaking out. You may just be a bus driver ,but you have more common sense than some of our politicians have in their little finger. You are evidently more informed about our children and their education than majority of our politicians. God help us! God bless you!

  3. francine thomas

    I suggest we demand our state legislators take the test themselves. Then we will see how well THEY do and if they still feel it is an accurate tool for assessment of knowledge.


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