Tuesday, August 21, 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.

Comments
Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Forceful words are coming from the pope’s pen as well as pulpits around Tampa Bay: The sexual abuse of minors, which proliferated for decades within the Roman Catholic Church, were not merely sins but crimes whose repercussions are still being felt b...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/20/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18