Sunday, June 24, 2018
Education

Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Want to annoy an education leader in Florida?

Tell them they’ve turned your child’s school into an assembly line of tiny test takers. Tell them innovation and imagination and excitement are rapidly disappearing in favor of teaching to the test.

And when they deny it, tell them to watch a video of themselves.

Because the Florida Board of Education meeting last week was a disturbing example of spineless bureaucrats and out-of-touch appointees unwilling to understand the problem in front of them.

In this particular case, they were demanding that Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins get rid of four principals at struggling elementary schools.

Eakins explained there were extenuating circumstances. He explained that other reforms had been put in place, and early signs indicated the plans were working. He explained that he wasn’t afraid of firing principals, and had already replaced leaders at eight of 17 other struggling turnaround schools.

To which several board members basically said:

Yeah, but the test scores.

It is all they understand. It is all they care about. And their zealous obsession with standardized tests will continue to make public schools less and less attractive and effective in Florida.

If you doubt that, just think of the real-world implications of what happened at that meeting.

If nothing matters but the test scores, what do you think the rest of the principals in the district are going to do? They’re going to crack the whip on teachers and tell them to get those test scores higher or they’ll all be fired. And so the teachers abandon all nonessential lesson plans and focus on the tests.

And your child’s school becomes a sweat shop of test takers. No nuance, no exploration, no hope of enticing a student with something different. Just a narrow focus on one state assessment.

Now, this isn’t some blind defense of those four principals. I’ve never met or talked to any of them. I have no idea whether they are outstanding or sadly incompetent.

But the point is, neither do the Board of Education members.

They don’t seem to care that more than 90 percent of the students at those four schools are classified as economically disadvantaged, which happens to be the most reliable predictor of test scores. And they don’t care that enrollment numbers have been adjusted to relieve the pressure at the schools, or that low-performing teachers have been replaced.

They don’t care that Eakins is closest to the situation, and he thinks the current plan has the best chance for success.

Instead, they want to upend four schools in the middle of the academic year because it makes the board members look like they’re being responsive.

They say this as if qualified principals can be found sitting around a nearby Starbucks. Of Hillsborough’s 50 most economically disadvantaged elementary schools, Eakins has already replaced 27 principals in the past three years. Some were fired, some retired, some left for schools in wealthier neighborhoods.

The point is it requires special people willing to take on a more difficult challenge at a struggling school, especially under the threat of being fired if test scores don’t rebound.

If Florida is so committed to these assessments, perhaps we should come up with a competency test for state Board of Education members.

Comments
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

DADE CITY —Just a few weeks into summer vacation, Pasco Middle School student Jade Neal, 14, was back at school, delving into a challenging STEM activity on force in motion, as the theme to Mission Impossible played in the background.The assignment? ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18