Sunday, June 17, 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: 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
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.The students, all from the school’s drama department, bro...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18