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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco County school district officials seek fix to final exam concerns

With complaints continuing to mount, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning has begun seeking alternative ideas to district-created final exams in every course.

His efforts, however, have run afoul of School Board members who said they are being kept out of the loop as the district tries to deal with a growing number of teacher criticisms of the tests. The concerns grew so severe that Browning decided not to count them toward student grades as the school year ended.

Board member Steve Luikart said Tuesday he was told the administration had called off a summer workshop on the topic that he and others requested. He added that he heard the district's Student Progression Plan committee had taken over discussion of the issue, and wanted to know if those meetings would be open to attend.

That information came as news to board member Colleen Beaudoin, who sits on the SPP committee. She said she hadn't been informed of any committee meetings until the fall, and suggested that the issue of final exams needed to be decided well before students return to classes.

When Browning said the committee had begun meeting already, Beaudoin raised her eyebrows. "Well, then I don't get invited," she said.

After the meeting, Beaudoin expressed frustration at the situation. She said she has been asking questions about the tests for several weeks, and saw some of the same problems with their validity and scoring that teachers have presented.

"I believe in having tests," said Beaudoin, who teaches math at the University of Tampa. "But we have to have buy-in, and we have to measure what's right."

Board member Alison Crumbley said she, too, had heard from many district educators about the tests and how they seem not to assess the materials that students are learning. Crumbley noted that some of the district's best teachers, many of whom rarely speak out on issues, had brought forth data and details to back up their complaints.

"They just want it right," she said, adding that the board has the same goal.

And not just for students. The results affect teacher evaluations, and so teachers have a two-pronged reason for wanting proper tests.

"To equate student performance on FSA EOCs, which are norm-referenced, to district EOCs, which are not, is ridiculous. To saddle teachers with poor ratings for the next three years based on obviously-flawed and unequal exam results is not just ridiculous, but patently unfair," Land O'Lakes High math teacher Pat Connolly told the board Tuesday.

Browning said he has every intention to improve the system, and to involve the board in the process. He assured the members they would be invited to all SPP committee meetings, where ideas will be generated for formal consideration before the end of the summer.

"We're going to work on the (existing) finals until such time as I can come up with an alternate proposal," he said in an interview.

Toward that end, Browning has sent an email through the state superintendents association to all districts asking how they get data to evaluate teacher performance, as state law requires.

"If I could find some other method to satisfy those statutory requirements, I am more than open to changing how we do business," Browning said.

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 5:05pm]


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