Friday, May 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: New student testing law should have gone further

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Tuesday a modest reduction in student testing, but the changes are by no means perfect and do not adequately address the stubborn march to proceed with suspect standardized tests that have had a bumpy debut. The new law at least confirms that the governor and state lawmakers are hearing the frustrations of parents, teachers and school administrators. The inclusion of an independent review of the new Florida Standards assessments should offer some protection for students, teachers and schools if the tests turn out to be flawed.

The law requires that no more than 5 percent of a student's total school hours in a year be spent on statewide and mandatory district assessments. It also removes a requirement that local school districts give exams in subjects not covered by state tests. And if a statewide, standardized test exists for a course, that assessment must be used as the final exam for its associated course.

It is disappointing that the law still allows school grades to be issued for the 2014-15 school year. Critics of that plan, including superintendents throughout Florida, had argued that all school grades should be suspended for this school year as districts around the state implemented the new assessments. The law wisely establishes that an independent entity will verify the validity of the tests before school grades can be published or student performance data may be used in evaluating teachers and school administrators. A statewide panel must select that independent evaluator by June 1, and verification of tests must be completed by Sept. 1.

Teachers should be encouraged by the reduction in weight that test scores carry in teacher evaluations. The scores will make up one-third of teacher evaluations, down from 50 percent. This smart move puts Florida in line with best practices around the country.

On the whole, the new law represents a good-faith effort by lawmakers who realize students are tested far beyond what is required to determine their mastery of a subject area. But it remains unfair to hold schools, teachers and, most importantly, students accountable for their performance this year on hastily compiled, adopted and implemented statewide exams whose spring rollout was rife with problems. It would have required more courage for lawmakers to include the independent review of the tests and suspend school grades for this school year. As it stands, the law is unclear about what happens if independent reviewers find fault with the tests.

Scott had no choice but to sign the changes into law, because they are better than the status quo. But legislators should be prepared to make adjustments to the accountability components based upon the results of the independent evaluation, feedback from students, parents and teachers and the common sense gleaned from observing implementation issues during the testing season.

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Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

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Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

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Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18