Is Florida's testing pushback really about local control?
School board members across Florida are proclaiming their support of education accountability as they adopt resolutions opposing the state's reliance on FCAT results for so many measures, such as teacher performance and third-grade promotion.
While many focus on the testing aspect of the issue, Citrus County School Board member Pat Deutschman adds another angle to the conversation. She suggests in a column for the Citrus County Chronicle that people also should be up in arms about the state's strong-arm tactics.
Local school board members know better than some unelected bureaucrats and political appointees in Tallahassee, she writes:
"We are also the ones who must deal with the ramifications of the test scores. To undermine those very people who have actually and daily provided the environment and ability for students to thrive is a gross injustice. To give credit to a test for student learning is a deception.
"So the question to you, the voters and the taxpayers, is this: Who do you ultimately trust to make the decisions that impact our public schools? Is it the locally elected boards and superintendents who will meet with you face to face, answer your questions, talk with you in the grocery store, lose sleep over our students and be willingly accountable for student performance — or the corporations, big-money contributors and political appointees who may never have stepped foot in a classroom and don’t answer to you?"
Read Deutschman's full column here. Is she on target? It's become rather clear in recent years that the Florida Legislature acts much like a super-school board, setting the rules that local school boards then have little option but to follow — with or without funding, regardless of whether they think the policies are best for children. The shift to a common national standard, tests included, moves the decision-making another step away from local control.
It's all done in the name of global competition, and improving students' academic growth in key sectors. It's also trying to make sure that children in Florida and New York, for instance, don't have wildly different expectations of them while pursuing their education goals. (If NCLB waivers don't reopen the door to that past practice, that is.)
Have local school boards, then, become an anachronism? Or can they wrest some control back, as Deutschman calls for? And, bottom line, should they get it?