Pointing fingers in Florida's accountability and testing system
The Florida Board of Education is preparing to pick a new education commissioner, one whom members have said they want to have firm grounding in the national "reform" movement that the state has played a large role in leading.
The decision approaches at a time when the state's opposition to high-stakes testing is in full swing, and Gov. Rick Scott has given at least lip service to the critics who want to see some moderation in the accountability system. (Time will tell if he acts on his words.)
So what better time could there be for the attacks and counter attacks on the system's values?
FEA president Andy Ford, in a guest column for the Orlando Sentinel, charges in first:
"The past few months have exposed what many have been saying for years about the political misuses and rapidly and ever-evolving abuses of the FCAT. Changing standards in the middle of the school year led to results on the FCAT writing test that led to an emergency meeting of the State Board of Education to allow more students to pass the exam. Those arbitrary and politically driven changes led to lower school grades and more errors that led to more than 200 schools having their grades increased a week later.
"FEA has always been a strong supporter of accountability, reform and the proper uses of assessments to gauge teaching and learning. The problem is that the FCAT has been abused by politicians and those wanting to make a profit off public schools and students."
Matthew Ladner of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education counters on Jay P. Greene's blog:
"The FEA’s difficulties originate with their suspect ideas rather than their flush bank account. Ford’s characterization of Florida’s accountability system as “flawed and punitive” is a fine example. This “flawed” system has in fact produced remarkable results, especially for disadvantaged children. ...
"Notice that the “good ole days” in Florida (pre-reform) were a disaster for low-income children. A whopping 37% of Florida’s low-income 4th graders had learned to read according to NAEP’s standards in 1998. A lack of transparency and accountability may have suited the FEA fine, but it was nothing less than catastrophic for Florida’s low-income children. Thirteen years into the “flawed” system, that figure was up to 62 percent. The goal of Florida policymakers should clearly be to accelerate this impressive progress rather than to go back to the failed practices of the past.
"Put another way, if Mr. Ford considers this system “flawed” then Florida lawmakers should quickly implement something that he would judge to be “catastrophically flawed.” Note also that Florida’s public school teachers deserve to celebrate these gains as much as anyone. The FEA however opposed the reforms that produced them tooth and nail, costing them credibility (especially when they continue to complain today)."
Care to join in the debate?