Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Education

Lee County School Board poised to reverse its controversial vote on standardized testing

The Lee County School Board has scheduled a special meeting Tuesday to reconsider its controversial decision this week to opt out of all state-mandated testing.

The meeting was set after board member Mary Fischer, who was part of the 3-2 majority in Wednesday's emotional vote, signaled a change of heart. Fischer will offer a motion to rescind the vote, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.

The newspaper also reported that a crowd of more than 20 supporters of the original vote gathered at school district headquarters late Friday to decry the apparent reversal.

The board has been alternately hailed and reviled after the vote. Supporters say it was a much-needed wake-up call after years of opposition and debate that has only resulted in the state increasing its reliance on testing. Critics called the move a reckless gambit that will hurt students, put the district's state and federal funding at risk and leave local taxpayers to shoulder the cost of the school system on their own.

A foundation headed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, the architect of Florida's school accountability system, said the Lee County board was neglecting its duty to uphold state law. The group, Foundation for Excellence in Education, also placed blame on Lee County and other districts that require their own tests in addition to state tests. "A better choice would be focusing on fewer and better tests in their own community instead of using the state as a scapegoat," the foundation said.

Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement released by his office that he understands the "frustrations of parents in Lee County" and is opposed to any "federal overreach into our school system." But he added that the board members' actions "could have serious negative consequences that I am sure they did not intend."

Two days before the Lee County vote, Scott, as part of his re-election campaign, vowed a thorough investigation into state testing.

Lee is the state's ninth-largest school district with 87,000 students, 95 traditional public schools and 21 charters. The district is headquartered in Fort Myers.

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