Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Education

Romano: Corporations have hijacked education in Florida

We don't trust our teachers.

No way. The education of children cannot be handed to the people who spend the most time with them in the classroom.

We don't trust our school administrators.

Nope, they're as unreliable as the teachers. And that goes for superintendents and School Board officials, too.

When it comes to the important stuff — the promotion of students, the job evaluations of educators, the funding of schools — we place all of our trust somewhere else.

Namely, in corporations.

Faceless, ravenous, blameless corporations. The same corporations making hundreds of millions of dollars every time we agree to modify, intensify or add standardized tests to a child's life.

This essential truth was revisited last week when the state Department of Education posted sample copies of the new Florida Standards Assessments.

These were not Common Core tests, because those have the federal government's stamp of approval, and we can't have that. And these are not the latest incarnation of FCAT because, I suppose, we've been tailoring curriculum around that for years.

No, these are new tests from a new company.

They're sort of Common Core-inspired. Sort of designed for Florida by way of Utah. Sort of field tested, but without much rigor.

And now they will determine your child's future.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

It's an interesting two-step your Tallahassee leaders are dancing. They are running away from Common Core as fast as they can, yet they're saying the new tests are a perfect fit because we've been integrating Common Core in recent years.

Somehow I don't think that reasoning fits into the trendy educational catchphrase "critical thinking.''

But that's not even the biggest problem. We have handed education over to the business world. To the testing companies. To the textbook industry. To executives who have no interaction whatsoever with children, and whose devotion will forever be the bottom line.

We are so obsessed with the idea of accountability in local classrooms that we have ceded all control of education to testing conglomerates that have little accountability.

Visit the state's site at fsassessments.org and read sample tests, developed with the American Institutes for Research. There are questions that are unclear. Questions designed to play "gotcha'' with fourth-graders. And questions that are flat wrong.

I'm not saying we should expect perfection from these testing companies. I'm saying we should stop giving them the power to play God with our kids and schools.

There are no checks and balances to education. No leeway or nuance. The tests have been given too much power and too little oversight.

We are taking the word of anonymous people who write and grade tests, and we're not even allowed behind the curtain to evaluate them because security is apparently more important than quality.

Florida has been hailed nationwide as a pioneer in high-stakes testing. I say the time has come for Florida to be a pioneer once again.

It's time to strike a balance. It's time to recognize that one-size-fits-all testing is not utopia. It's time to realize that our children deserve better than to have their education handed over to some corporate clearinghouse.

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