Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida schools need to hit pause on test plan

Florida's discredited school accountability system is about to get worse if the mad rush continues to adopt new tests to reflect tougher standards. The Legislature should hit the pause button and adopt a more rational timeline for implementing the Common Core State Standards and companion assessments. Otherwise, the state is being unfair to teachers and students and dooming another accountability system to failure before it starts.

At least some state leaders are getting the message. Several senators raised valid concerns at a committee meeting last week that a fast-track plan to write and implement a new testing system by the coming school year is unworkable. State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says she could select a vendor by March, adopt test language by June and be ready to go statewide in the fall. But that leaves no time for bid protests by companies who don't win the job or valuable field testing to ascertain if the tests performs as educators hope. Stewart argues field testing benefits vendors more than students, but that ignores the advice from county school superintendents and the Department of Education's dubious record in administering the flawed Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Since the state embraced the Common Core standards in 2010, the timeline has been ambitious for moving to a new curriculum and tests by 2014-15. Legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott made it worse when they foolishly removed Florida from a nonprofit national consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, that was well on its way to building a set of tests. Scott, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz abruptly pulled the state out amid erroneous tea party claims that Common Core was being forced on the states by the federal government.

In fact, the movement was a bipartisan effort launched by states. Common Core sets benchmarks for what students should be learning in English, language arts and mathematics from kindergarten through 12th grade. Those standards are already part of Florida's kindergarten through Second grade curriculum. Now it is expanding to all grades and new tests are needed to measure whether students are hitting those benchmarks.

The school superintendents grasp the scope of the impending train wreck for students, teachers and schools if the state insists on this breakneck schedule. They propose a three-year transition plan to allow more time to implement the Common Core curriculum and adopt new tests that will be used to measure student performance, evaluate teachers and grade schools. In those three years, superintendents say school districts should have the flexibility to create tests to measure students and have said the state could tweak the accountability standards to match.

In an ideal world, Florida would be in better shape. It would have worked within PARCC to build assessments and tweaked implementation dates to ensure a smooth transition. But there's still time to put quality above political expediency. Lawmakers should force the state to slow down and do this right rather than so fast it is sure to fail.

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Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
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...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
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