Two more important columns have come out in response to Speaker-Designate Steve Crisafulli's op-ed and email and on the general issue of Common Core and testing. Although not really dealing with the issue of the tests coming as a result of Bush Family induced federal mandates and incentives, they, as we do, emphasize the issues of parental rights, loss of instructional time, and stifling of teachers over mandated tests.
Former Florida Representative Paula Dockery wrote an excellent column that was particularly cogent on the issues of no one being fooled about the Common Core re-branding to the Florida Standards, Jeb Bush's role, and the need for parental control over decision making in their children's education:
Florida approved the benchmarks in 2010 with little dissent, but public opposition is getting louder. Complicating matters for Scott is the fact that Jeb Bush is a vocal supporter of Common Core and of rigorous standardized testing in general. Scott's response to the public outcry was to make some changes to the standards and rebrand the "new" product as the Florida Standards. Opponents of Common Core were neither fooled nor impressed. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, was fine with the changes, as he recognized that the commitment to Common Core essentially remained intact...
...The "paid to advocate" crowd that pushes the idea of parental choice as it pertains to vouchers and charter schools is also the crowd pushing for more and more standardized testing in public schools.
Their advocacy for their "parents know best what's right for their children" mantra applies to school choice, but is fiercely challenged when it comes to standardized testing.
If Florida doesn't have the backbone to address the madness of too much high-stakes testing, it should allow local school boards to make the decision without bullying them or threatening their resources.
Here's another idea: Allow parents to opt their children out. After all, parents know best. (Emphasis added.)
Florida Today opinion editor Matt Reed also wrote a cogent column. Although defending Jeb Bush in an apparent effort to take off some of the Common Core heat Jeb is experiencing and appearing to throw Rick Scott under the bus, Reed gives important history about the testing obsession:
Florida had led the nation in learning gains -- especially among poor and minority students -- since Bush's reforms introduced measurement and school accountability in 1998. The FCAT and school-grading system were neither perfect nor well-liked. But they gave educators a valuable tool and a motive to improve.
We could have kept going with that.
But in conservative policy circles, the FCAT wasn't enough. Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and American Enterprise Institute pushed lawmakers for better "return on investment" by further raising stakes on tests while keeping spending low, their reports said. They also pushed mandatory online classes and testing as a way to save on personnel...
...Enter Senate Bill 6 in 2010, a hallmark of that agenda. It would require high-stakes end-of-course exams in every subject. It based at least half of teachers' pay on student test scores. It ended job security by making teachers year-to-year employees.
I'll never forget standing at a Tea Party rally at the Wickham Park pavilion in 2010 when radio host Bill Mick announced that then-Gov. Charlie Crist had just vetoed Senate Bill 6.
The crowd erupted in applause. It saw SB 6 as big-government -- and too scary.
A year later, Scott signed the exact same bill, renumbered 736. For the signing, Scott staged a photo op at a charter school in Jacksonville, signaling no confidence in neighborhood public schools...Scott signed it with an in-your-face flourish that burned tea partiers and unions alike...
...SB 736 has made the prior decade under Jeb Bush's FCAT and "A-plus" school-grading system -- which most of us had come to respect -- look like a warm-up lap.
It was meant to scare teachers, families and principals into improvement.
It scared them all right.
Reed then goes on to discuss the current testing revolt:
In Lee County, the school Board voted Tuesday to strike down the district's entire testing calendar, eliminating 68 tests from grades kindergarten through fifth grade, sanctions be damned. That followed a resolution by the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards calling on the state to "suspend high stakes testing."
On the Space Coast, a group of parents and educators have joined a movement to create an "opt-out" provision. The Brevard School Board urged residents Tuesday to pressure their state representatives...
...That followed a Sunday op-ed column in FLORIDA TODAY by incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who defended the testing regimen. Crisafulli oversees Republican House campaigns this year and has damage to contain...
Reed then concludes with a warning that combined with grave concern about the indoctrination of the Common Core standards and the deceptive re-branding, should be heeded both by Governor Scott and the legislative candidates:
Their intensification of testing and its consequences in 2011 broke a pain threshold for everyone.
Tallahassee must carefully scale back testing now, or rebels will do it crudely at the polling place.