Wednesday, June 20, 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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18