Florida Today Publishes Dr. Effrem's Rebuttal to Crisafulli on Testing

October, 2014

Florida Today published Dr. Effrem's rebuttal to Speaker-Designate Steve Crisafulli's recent op-ed supporting Florida's current very problematic testing scheme:

Rep. Steve Crisafulli's glowing defense of testing in Florida, which was detailed in his recent FLORIDA TODAY guest column, "Testing is part of life," requires a response.

Perhaps with a few more facts, he and the state Legislature will understand how much state sovereignty, local and parental control has been ceded to the federal government and corporate testing entities.

With regard to the history Crisafulli described, while it is true that state-mandated testing began in Florida in 1999, he failed to mention that it was due to the federal mandates started by President George H.W. Bush and completed by President Clinton.

These completely unconstitutional mandates required statewide standards and tests for the first time in our nation's history, becoming the first large step toward the destruction of parental and local control. That destruction was continued by President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a law whose many mandates are nearly universally agreed to have been unworkable. So much so that President Obama used the 2009 stimulus bill and illegal, unconstitutional conditional waivers from NCLB to bribe/blackmail states to accept Common Core and the national tests.

Perhaps Crisafulli, the Florida House speaker-designate, is misinformed or unaware that the statewide tests are not at all diagnostic for academic issues. It is a well-known fact these test results come back in the late spring or summer, far too late to be useful for the teachers in the year they were given. Instead they are used to psychologically profile our children and, according to the U.S. Department of Education and other organizations, measure "social-emotional learning" and "psychological resources." They also are used for data collection to reward and punish teachers, principals and school districts to make sure that the now nationalized Common Core standards rebranded as the Florida Standards are being taught.

It is very disappointing to see Chrisafulli is still trying to promote the idea that Florida has its own unique set of standards when Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, former Gov. Jeb Bush, state Education Commissioner Pamela Stewart and numerous others have all admitted the changes to Common Core were insubstantial and the federal government did not bat an eye, because the changes made to Common Core were so insignificant.

Crisafulli is correct that students have others ways in statute to show proficiency for the high-stakes test in third grade and high school. If only these are the high-stakes tests, then he should not be against parents exercising their unalienable right to direct the education and upbringing of their children by opting them out of these unconstitutional, federally mandated tests, but according to an email he sent to another media outlet, he is.

In his guest column, the speaker-designate reveals the real reason he is against parents being able to opt out by saying, "Finally, our accountability system is the basis for a significant amount of funding. We have a partnership with the federal government ... If we simply refuse these requirements, we would certainly lose billions of dollars for our schools."
These tests are a federal requirement of NCLB. Contrary to what Crisafulli says about making sure the federal "partnership" is "constantly monitored to prevent encroachment upon our state's rights," both NCLB and the waivers are being selectively and arbitrarily enforced, as evidenced by the threat to Florida's waiver over English language learners and the revocation of Oklahoma's waiver after it repealed Common Core.

Florida cowers under these requirements, making elected legislators and school board members all but irrelevant. States and school districts spend millions of dollars every year giving these tests and complying with all of the regulations. They will spend millions more they do not have to give these tests online, which keeps what is on the tests away from parents and teachers, making them useless for diagnosis in the classroom.

The truth is that Florida receives a total of $1.5 billion from the federal government for K-12, about $1 billion of which is for the programs he describes. This constitutes about 2 percent of the entire state budget and approximately 6.7 percent of the total education budget. While not an insubstantial amount of money, it is enough to get us hooked but not enough to help.

Florida was willing to give up five times more than that annually to not participate in the Medicaid expansion to protect its state sovereignty and fiscal health. The Legislature and governor should do the same to uphold parental rights and the U.S. and Florida constitutions and statutes.

Life is a series of tests, and no one is opposing testing, but it needs to be at the local level, not in the hands of the federal government. The federal government, Bill Gates, and several states admit that the national standards and tests drive curriculum. Florida must opt out of NCLB, let parents opt out of federally mandated tests, and return control to the districts where it belongs.

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