Florida Superintendents Excoriate Accountability System & Validity Study

September, 2015

Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director

The latest volley in growing rebellion against Florida's out-of-control accountability system is a statement signed by 62 out of 67 of the state's superintendents saying the following:
"Florida district school superintendents have lost confidence in the current accountability system for the students of the State of Florida... We have witnessed the erosion of public support for an accountability system that was once a model for the nation. Florida school superintendents stand ready to work with all stakeholders and the Department of Education to develop a viable accountability system and regain the trust of our students, teachers, parents and communities. "

Their statement strongly urged the following:
  1. Suspend any application of the results from the spring 2015 administration of the FSA to students, teachers and schools.
  2. Issue an "I" (Incomplete) if necessary, to all Florida schools for 2014-2015, based upon the availability of limited and flawed data
  3. Reject  the  concept  that  the  standards  set  for  the  FSA  mirror  the  levels  of  the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  4. Conduct an extensive review of the accountability system, including the multiple changes that have been implemented over the last several years.
"Teachers, parents and students have been experiencing this crisis first hand and are grateful that the Superintendents have added their voices to the outcry for a complete overhaul of how we test and how we use that data.
We ask that FADSS further their inquiry into the validity study and that they urge Legislators to release the burden of high stakes in their test and punish policies;  not just this year, but permanently."

This comes on the heel of widespread dissatisfaction with the validity study results and the fact that the Department of Education had access to the study before it was released but left no written evidence of what changes it sought.  Here are a few quotes:

"For all of these reasons FSCCC calls for the cancellation of the AIR contract and return of local control with districts choosing their own standards, tests, and curriculum as it was prior to 1994, given that federal and statewide interventions have done nothing to improve academic achievement or close gaps and much to harm students and teachers."

Florida Education Association - "The report noted that the testing season in 2015 was a mess, that the test results shouldn't be used as prominently as they are by the state and the questions from another state don't reflect Florida's standards," Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow said in a statement. "That's far from a ringing endorsement of the DOE's approach."

Former Republican legislator Paula Dockery:  "The so-called "validity" study begs more questions than it answers: Shouldn't we have validated the test before administering it? Why wasn't the proper load testing performed to test computer systems? Why were drafts of the "independent report" shared with the department prior to its release? Why isn't there a paper trail between Alpine and the Department of Education? Did the department change anything substantively in the report? How can the test results be validated for use in school grading and teacher evaluation but not for individual testing performance?

Isn't it time to learn from our mistakes? Let's take a timeout from high-stakes testing until the state gets it right."

Teacher and Psychometric Expert Darcey Addo Most importantly: Your child does not have to take the Florida Standards Assessment.
  • You can meet the graduation requirement with a concordant score on the ACT or SAT.
  • A comparative score on the PERT meets the "required" Algebra 1 EOC test requirement.
  • The FSA is punitive.
  • Results are used to punish teachers, students, schools, and districts.
  • The parent/guardian gets to make educational choices for your child. 
  • Opting Out is not about how well or poorly you believe your child will do, it's about denying the data that continues to keep this test crazy machine moving.
Despite this overwhelming pushback, Commissioner Stewart and Florida legislative leaders in education are completely tone deaf and appear unconcerned about the damage that this system is doing to the education system in Florida. Commissioner Stewart and the FLDOE put out a propaganda piece full of straw man arguments in order to dance around the unpleasant aspects of the allegedly independent review that they reviewed twice before its release.  Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg after holding one brief hearing where there was only five minutes to hold Commissioner Stewart accountable for the disastrous 2015 Florida testing season and the extremely questionable involvement of the FLDOE with Alpine before the allegedly independent report was released, said that he was "ready to move on" and that he saw now legislative way to block the release of the school grades in December.

House Education Committee Chairwoman Marlene O'Toole and her committee had no probing questions for the commissioner about the testing failures or the validity study, but instead gave her kudos and a thank you note.  In addition, O'Toole made it plain that parents have no rights and nor choice in the testing and education of their children and if they were to opt out or minimally participate that they should leave the public schools:
John Cerebino of the Palm Beach Post responded with a column showing the hypocrisy of the legislature and state government by listing numerous examples of how they had opted out of several duly passed laws and constitutional amendments.  We would add to his list the fact that Commissioner Stewart had opted out of the load testing law resulting in incredible pain for thousands of Florida students who could not take their tests on computer.  The legislature also opted out of holding FLDOE accountable by watering down the original validity amendment that also required enforcement of this load testing law ironically authored by Senator Legg. Cerebino finished his column this way:

This is way harder than I thought. Finding examples to illustrate why "opting out" is not tolerated in Florida is a fruitless exercise.
Except for you, parents. You're not allowed. Just take it from the people who have made opting out their default mode of governing.
Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano rightly laid this entire accountability and validity mess at the feet of Jeb Bush and his ill-conceived accountability system upon which he is basing much of his presidential campaign:

This is what has come of the state's zealous adherence to Jeb Bush's educational reforms. Lawmakers have taken potential solutions and rammed them so far down the throats of parents and educators that additional discussion is nearly impossible.The result is conflict. And confusion. And a generation of students being used as political pawns. It's gotten so twisted that we've forgotten the original debate.

Too many parents now see higher curriculum standards and statewide tests as inherently evil, and that's a shame. There's nothing wrong with testing students. And there's certainly nothing wrong with aiming higher.

The problem is, our Legislature has destroyed the value of these concepts with nonsensical overkill. They've given standardized tests -- and thus the specific curriculum they are based on -- so much weight in classrooms, budgets and careers that these reforms have swallowed education.
Romano also pointed out Bush's hypocrisy regarding his support for using public school tax dollars for private school choice while denying public school parents any choice on testing:

The PDK/Gallup poll on public schools has been measuring American attitudes on education since 1969. The latest poll seems to confirm what grass roots parents groups have been shouting about for quite some time:

There's too much high-stakes testing in schools.

When Bush talks about parental choice, he's pushing the idea of using tax dollars to create more charter schools or vouchers for private schools. Yet, when it comes to standardized tests and all of their ramifications assigned by politicians, he sees no room for choice or compromise for these same parents.
Perhaps this is why Jeb Bush is running behind both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio in Florida in the most recent Florida Atlantic University poll and why more people view him unfavorably than favorably in that same poll:

Politicians in Florida and presidential candidates like Bush refuse to listen at great harm to the state of Florida and to their own political peril.

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