Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

Hillsborough School Board members speak out against over-testing but will hold a workshop before taking a stand

TAMPA — It starts in kindergarten.

The fall formative reading test. The midyear formative reading test. End-of-year tests in reading, math and science.

Five standardized tests, and another for new English speakers. In kindergarten.

Earlier this year, Hillsborough County School Board chairwoman Candy Olson initiated a discussion on the preponderance of high-stakes tests.

She wondered if Hillsborough should join Palm Beach County and other districts in a nationwide appeal to ease up on a process that was intended to tighten accountability in the schools.

At the board's request, Hillsborough staff compiled a list, grade by grade, of tests students can expect to take.

Not all students take all tests, cautioned Samuel Whitten, assistant director of assessment and accountability. There's variation for learning disabilities, English proficiency, and participation in programs such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.

Still, the numbers were impressive. Twenty-four tests were listed for eighth grade. For 10th grade: 26 including the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in reading and math, which kids must pass before graduation.

"It's just glaring how much our students are asked to test," board member Carol Kurdell said, discussing the report at Tuesday's meeting.

Member Susan Valdes asked about the burden on new English speakers, who also are tested periodically on language proficiency.

Member Jack Lamb shared statistics he picked up from Wharton High School. More than 6,700 tests were administered this year in that school's media center, he said. "That media center was closed, for all practical purposes, for a month."

Freedom High School math teacher Michael Weston — who is running for Kurdell's at-large School Board seat — said that apart from the disruption of the tests, teachers contend with half-empty classes on days when some students are taking the PSAT, or various AP tests.

"I lost virtually the entire two weeks of my advanced math courses," he said.

Part of the issue stems from the trend toward taking tests on computers instead of paper. "To test the entire student population, we need to have computers for each student," Whitten said. "Not having that, we have to do it in groups."

A long-simmering backlash against excessive testing gained momentum this year in Florida when the state Department of Education struggled with the FCAT.

Scores required to show grade-level proficiency were increased, resulting in changes and recalculations to prevent the appearance that student achievement had dropped sharply.

Early this week, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing reported that 11 Florida school boards had endorsed a national resolution asking policymakers to reduce the use of tests as a sole factor in education decisions.

Pinellas County joined them on Tuesday with a 6-1 vote to sign on to the national resolution.

But the Hillsborough board took no action Tuesday. Instead, the board will hold a workshop July 17 to learn more about tests, and the district's computer needs.

The 9 a.m. workshop will be followed by a regular board meeting at 3 p.m.

In other business, the board:

• Discussed ongoing efforts to improve the student registration process in the aftermath of a football cheating scandal at Armwood High School.

Olson suggested the district revise its enrollment forms to include a warning that students will be removed from schools if their parents lie about where they live.

"I just think we've been mushing around with this for too long," she said.

The district already is fine-tuning the registration process as a result of the ongoing Florida High School Athletic Association case against Armwood, where students are accused of using fake documents to show they lived in the school's attendance area.

Olson's motion passed 4-1, with Valdes voting no.

• Approved the $300,000 purchase of more iPad tablets for Franklin Boys Preparatory School and Ferrell Girls Preparatory School. The two single-gender middle schools, which just completed their first year, provide iPads to all students, and enrollment is expected to increase.

• Named these new principals: Jennifer West to Lincoln Elementary School; Nicole Bennett to Foster Elementary; Cindy Dowdy to Cimino Elementary; William Woodland Johnson to Mort Elementary and Ken Hart to Monroe Middle School.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Published: 05/23/18