Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Listen to Gates on testing timetable

Bill Gates knows a thing or two about product development. So when the Microsoft billionaire's foundation recommends that states wait at least two years before assigning high-stakes consequences to new Common Core State Standards testing schemes, Tallahassee should listen. Maintaining Florida's already discredited school grading scheme simply for continuity's sake makes no sense. A change as big and as important as Common Core requires more time for transition without the stress that potentially flawed assessments will lead to unjust consequences.

Comments from Gates' foundation this week echo what Florida educators have been saying for the past year amid the state's bungled efforts to adopt a new battery of standardized tests to align with Florida Standards, the state's version of Common Core. The so-called subject tests have the potential to be far more palatable than the loathed FCAT they will replace, but only if the state gets them right. And so far, there's little reason for confidence. Florida abruptly succumbed to pressure from tea party critics in September and pulled out of a multistate consortium that was creating tests. That forced the Department of Education to adopt a rushed test-adoption plan, one that will provide no time for field testing before students take them next spring.

To their credit, county school superintendents asked lawmakers for a three-year hiatus from the state's school grading system, the A+ Plan, having little confidence that the tests will work perfectly from the start and providing teachers more time to adjust to the new requirements. Lawmakers instead agreed to just a one-year hiatus on consequences in 2014-15, though the grades still will be calculated — adding one more caveat to a system that has become so compromised in recent years with tweaks as to be meaningless and a constant distraction.

What the Gates foundation is advocating, frankly, is similar to the methodical approach it has underwritten in Hillsborough County as part of a major grant. The open letter from the Gates foundation's education policy director, Vicki Phillips, noted, "Even the best new ideas aren't self-fulfilling; they have to be put into practice wisely."

Common Core opponents have seized on the foundation's letter as fodder for more criticism, suggesting Gates is looking for cover for a major education reform his foundation has had a major investment in promoting. But that is one more piece of misdirection. Common Core is a set of standards 46 states embraced that are aimed at enabling states to finally gauge their students' progress against others nationally and internationally. How those standards are implemented, including what kinds of tests are used to measure progress, is left up to each state or school district.

What the Gates foundation is saying is that tying big consequences too soon to failing to meet the standards, before any assessments have been fully vetted, makes no sense, particularly for a change as significant as Common Core. Tallahassee should listen.

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Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18