Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Schools don't need more meddling

State Sen. John Legg correctly recognizes that there are too many standardized tests in Florida's public schools and that they frustrate students, teachers and parents. But his proposed solution of a test-free period around state-required tests is impractical and just one more instance of Tallahassee micromanaging local schools. The Legislature should focus on the bigger issues regarding implementing the Common Core Standards and those still-undetermined assessments — and stop dictating to local school districts that need greater flexibility.

Legg's bill, SB 852, would ban school districts from administering their own assessments in the two weeks before and after state standardized test dates. Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate and industry certification tests would still be allowed in the test-free window.

The lawmaker's solution to overtesting sounds good but creates too many other problems. Students taking the FCAT 2.0 this week would otherwise be test-free Feb. 11 to March 11, creating conflicts with local districts administering their own assessments. And with the state's FCAT exams for reading, mathematics and science scheduled for April 14-24, districts would be precluded from doing their testing from March 31 to May 1. It's an unrealistic schedule. In Pasco County, for instance, educators, working around a teacher planning day and spring break in the second semester, would have to cram district-based assessments into just a few days.

The artificial four-week clear zone is intended to put an emphasis on the state tests. But it fails to acknowledge that the Legislature helped trigger the high volume of local assessments with demands for data-driven evaluations of teachers based on student test scores. That's tough to do when students don't sit for their first FCAT until the third grade.

Florida's standardized testing mania began with the introduction of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, FCAT, in the mid 1990s. The importance of that test exploded in 1999 when the state began assigning school letter grades and handing out bonus payments based on students' performances. Two years later, the federal No Child Left Behind law required more frequent assessments to measure whether children are reading, writing and doing mathematics at grade level. Among the problems with the standardized test schedule is the frequent interruption of daily school activities. During exam periods, children are denied so-called special classes — art, music and physical education — and access to computer labs that are turned into test centers for weeks at a time.

In that regard, Legg is responding to local concerns. The heavy testing, he said, does not consider the students' point of view. He has identified the problem accurately but failed to find the right answer. Negotiations with educators and House members are likely to produce a much different version of this bill during the coming legislative session, Legg acknowledged. There are too many tests, but the answer is giving school districts more flexibility and not less to fix the problem.

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Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
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Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

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Another voice: A shameful anniversary

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Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

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Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

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Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

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Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17