Sunday, February 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Grading system: End it, don't mend it

Florida's school accountability system doesn't need another bandage; it needs major surgery to regain the public's trust. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart's proposal to once again adjust the formula for determining school letter grades would only create more confusion and frustration about the discredited evaluation of schools, teachers and students. The Board of Education on Tuesday should reject Stewart's plan and embrace the proposal from school superintendents to suspend school grading until the state writes and vets the new student tests that will replace the FCAT. There is no point in keeping school letter grades that would mean little and further erode public confidence.

Stewart last week said the path to restoring the public's faith in the much-maligned Florida A+ grading system is to simplify the formula by removing some of the automatic triggers that cause a school grade to drop a letter, such as when less than 25 percent are reading at grade level. She also would retreat from controversial changes to high school evaluations adopted in 2010 that added SAT scores, Advanced Placement performance and certain graduation rates to the mix. School grades awarded for the 2013-14 school year wouldn't be comparable to previous years, not that any of them in recent time have been meaningful.

This superficial window dressing is what happens when a governor gives lip service to education and cares more about the appearance of accountability than the practical impact on schools and families. As public disdain for school grades and concerns about the Common Core State Standards grew last year, Gov. Rick Scott called an education summit in Seminole to consider solutions but failed to show up. Earlier this month, he met with 30 school district superintendents but failed to listen to their pleas to slow the transition to the new curriculum and its still-unwritten companion assessments.

In 2014-15, the much-maligned standardized test that serves as the backbone of the entire school grading formula and the linchpin in many teacher's evaluations — the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — is going away. But Florida hasn't even picked the tests that will take its place and foolishly backed out of a national consortium developing the tests in a misguided attempt to appease tea party critics. There isn't even time to field-test the so-called end-of-subject exams once they are adopted. That's a reckless oversight in a state that still had trouble administering the FCAT more than a decade after it began.

On top of all of that, now Stewart wants the Board of Education to endorse revised, meaningless school letter grades just for the sake of keeping the grading going until the new system is in place. House Speaker Will Weatherford has said one of his goals of the legislative session that begins next month is "restoring trust and integrity in our grading system." Stewart's plan isn't it. If the Board of Education doesn't realize that, the Legislature should step in. It is better to get the transition to Common Core right than to just pay homage to a flawed evaluation routine that already has lost all credibility.

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Editorial: Learning from St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Law violation

Editorial: Learning from St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Law violation

A recent state appeals court opinion strikes a victory for open government in finding St. Petersburg city officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law. City councils and other government panels in Florida are allowed to meet in secret only in very lim...
Published: 02/25/18
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18