Thursday, February 22, 2018
Education

Hernando School Board rejects high-stakes testing resolution, but supports concept

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board likes the message against high-stakes standardized testing. The way a resolution was written, not so much.

On Tuesday night, the board voted down a resolution that is being discussed by school boards across Florida, representing one of the strongest waves of sentiment ever against the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

"The reason I'm having problems supporting this resolution is I pretty much wouldn't have written it this way," board member John Sweeney said.

Chimed in Vice Chairman Matt Foreman: "The resolution is rather poorly worded."

After a 3-1 vote against the resolution, which was not reviewed in workshop before the meeting, the board asked its attorney to rewrite the resolution, clean it up a bit and make it more customized for Hernando.

"There are so many children that get so upset before FCAT testing," said board Chairwoman Cynthia Moore, a former teacher. "You have parents that get upset about it. You have teachers teaching to the test and leaving out material I feel that they need. I just think we need to get rid of some of the tests."

James Yant was the only board member who supported the resolution, as written. Board member Dianne Bonfield was absent.

While the board and superintendent Bryan Blavatt largely opposed testing in its current form, they were not against testing. The resolution urges the state to develop a broader system of accountability and the federal government to reduce testing mandates.

"My point of contention is that the tests were originally designed to measure student performance and provide help with the students to do better," Blavatt said. "Over the years, it's become a benchmark for measuring one school, or one district, against another and making a determination for the general public on the quality of the schools and whatever."

While he said the language of the resolution needed to be tinkered with, he liked the concept.

Sweeney agreed with Blavatt's point of view.

"The right thing is to use it to help the students," he said. "The wrong thing is to use it to make the students sick. And that's what I'm hearing over and over."

He added: "I think we do need to revisit how the test is used and when it's administered, but we do need to have some kind of standard measure."

In other business, the Hernando School Board on Tuesday night:

• Voted 3-2 against a resolution to increase the price of school lunches in one swoop. The board will vote later on a multi-step option. Board members Cynthia Moore and Matt Foreman supported the one-time increase. The others favor increasing the cost gradually over three years. A 2010 law requires districts to charge enough that the revenue from students who pay for their lunches is sufficient to cover the cost for those who receive free or reduced-price meals. That means the Hernando district must raise the elementary lunch price by 30 cents, to $2; and the middle and high school lunch price by a quarter, to $2.25.

• Said farewell to Victoria "Tori" Selby, the district's first student representative on the board. Board members lauded Selby for her hard work, her professionalism and her ability to speak articulately and knowledgeably about issues.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or at (352) 848-1432.

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