Accountability measures planned for Florida schools despite calls for respite
The Gates Foundation, one of the leading proponents behind the Common Core, this week called for a two-year moratorium on high-stakes decisions attached to state education accountability systems.
Such a delay will give teachers and students times to make a proper transition to the new standards and associated tests, without fear of reprisal, foundation director of education Vicki Phillips wrote.
"The standards need time to work," Phillips explained. "Teachers need time to develop lessons, receive more training, get used to the new tests, and offer their feedback. Applying assessment scores to evaluations before these pieces are developed would be like measuring the speed of a runner based on her time – without knowing how far she ran, what obstacles were in the way, or whether the stopwatch worked!"
The American Federation of Teachers quickly noted that it called for such a moratorium back in April, while Florida superintendents have long requested a three-year transition to the new model. Florida lawmakers offered a one-year "pause," similar to steps taken in other states including Colorado and Ohio.
That measure doesn't take effect until next year, though, leaving more than 100 Florida schools in 24 districts on the hook to meet turnaround requirements if this year's test results don't meet muster. Of those, 96 percent opted to use the "district-managed turnaround" choice, which includes replacing faculty members, rather than other possibilities such as closing down or reassigning students.
Schools already implementing turnarounds, such as Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, have felt the pressure to perform. Reaction has been mixed, meanwhile, as to whether restaffing is the best option to get the schools moving forward. So far, test results have offered nothing conclusive, with Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart saying it's too early to tell whether the plans have been successful.
Many school leaders are watching nervously. The Tampa area schools that face possible turnaround status based on this year's grades, yet to be released, are:
HERNANDO EASTSIDE ELEMENTARY
HERNANDO FOX CHAPEL MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH BRYAN ELEMENTARY
HILLSBOROUGH GIBSONTON ELEMENTARY
HILLSBOROUGH GIUNTA MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH GRECO MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH JENNINGS MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH MEMORIAL MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH MORT ELEMENTARY
HILLSBOROUGH RUSKIN ELEMENTARY
HILLSBOROUGH SHEEHY ELEMENTARY
HILLSBOROUGH SHIELDS MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH SLIGH MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH SULPHUR SPRINGS ELEMENTARY
HILLSBOROUGH THONOTOSASSA ELEMENTARY
HILLSBOROUGH VAN BUREN MIDDLE
HILLSBOROUGH WASHINGTON ELEMENTARY
PASCO CHESTER W. TAYLOR, JR. ELEMENTARY
PASCO GULF MIDDLE SCHOOL MIDDLE
PINELLAS BEAR CREEK ELEMENTARY
PINELLAS BELLEAIR ELEMENTARY
PINELLAS CAMPBELL PARK ELEMENTARY
PINELLAS DUNEDIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
PINELLAS HIGH POINT ELEMENTARY
PINELLAS LARGO MIDDLE SCHOOL MIDDLE
PINELLAS PINELLAS PARK ELEMENTARY
PINELLAS PONCE DE LEON ELEMENTARY
PINELLAS TYRONE MIDDLE
Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego already has taken steps to make changes at his district's struggling schools. Other districts have not been so quick to move, saying they wanted to see how the school grades turn out first. Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning said he wasn't certain he would act even then, because of the changes in standards, testing and instruction all in play.
The Florida Board of Education is set to consider the schools' proposed plans when it meets June 17. Members have not indicated a desire to back away from the school grading and accountability model, even for a short time.