Eyes turn to Florida Senate Education Committee for testing debate
Social media heated up over the weekend as Florida parents and activists seeking changes to the state's high-stakes testing and accountability system tried to raise attention to Monday's Senate Education Committee session.
The committee, which meets at 1:30 p.m. (watch on The Florida Channel), is to feature debate and a vote on this year's primary testing legislation. It looks to be Sen. Anitere Flores' SB 926, nicknamed the "Fewer, Better Tests" bill to the chagrin of critics who note it does little to eliminate or improve state exams.
They prefer Sen. Bill Montford's SB 964, which has been endorsed by a bipartisan slate of senators including several who sit on the committee. They've adopted #StopSB926 as their social media tag, and have contacted reporters along with lawmakers to make their views known.
And because the bill is scheduled to go only to one more committee -- Rules -- after this stop, the stakes are feeling high.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs and chairman of PreK-12 Appropriations, said senators have discussed the measures between meetings to see where they can arrive at consensus in bringing SB 926 closer to what others want.
"We're trying to get an even, balanced bill," Simmons told the Gradebook on Monday morning. "We're trying to make sure we get a consensus but we get real relief. ... This is not going to be a whitewash."
He anticipated a flurry of late-filed amendments to reflect growing agreement on the need to scale back or eliminate value-added measures in teacher evaluations, to return to paper-pencil testing, to move the assessment window to later in the school year, and to eliminate some exams. The goal is not to get rid of accountability, he said, but to improve it and "bring sanity back" to the system.
Simmons also looked forward to a lively debate over the section of SB 926 that would define a Level 3 score on tests from "satisfactory" to "proficient," a more difficult standard for students to attain. Many groups have blasted the idea, promoted by Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future. The Florida Board of Education toyed with the concept a year ago.
Simmons said he was not on board with the proposed change.
"You can't make a child a champ by calling him a chump," he said. "You sure don't tell them, we changed the metrics and you are no longer an A."
The House companion to Flores' bill received unanimous support from the PreK-12 Quality subcommittee two weeks ago, and is scheduled to be heard by PreK-12 Appropriations on Tuesday.