Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Student testing yields poor results

From Gov. Rick Scott to former Gov. Jeb Bush, supporters of Florida's school accountability system that relies heavily on standardized testing should answer a few more questions. If the state really is a national model, why isn't it graduating students who outperform their national peers? And why are Florida's high school seniors only outperforming West Virginia among 13 states with test scores reported?

New scores for 12th-graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — often called the "nation's report card" — suggest that the state's accountability system is not as successful in producing positive results for students as its supporters suggest. In 2013, Florida's high school seniors performed worse than the national average in math and were statistically even with the nation in reading.

These students have spent their entire academic careers under Florida's onerous FCAT and school grading system. And that's the result, despite the selective highlights promoted by the system's supporters. As the students prepare to graduate high school, they are average at best compared with their peers or worse. That hardly represents a proud accomplishment, and it should provoke more discussion about whether Florida really is on the right path.

Florida is one of 11 states that has 12th grade results for both 2009 and 2013. Florida trailed the nation in both subjects in 2009 as it did again in 2013, though reading was a statistical tie. Two states joined the pilot program last year. Of those 13, Florida clearly outclassed only one in reading, West Virginia. It surpassed two in math, West Virginia and Tennessee. Forty percent of Florida's 12th-graders failed to demonstrate even basic math skills.

The achievement gap for Florida's 12th-graders remains a chasm. Sixty percent of Florida's African-American seniors were below basic in math skills, as were 49 percent of Hispanic students. Black students' average scores were 24 points lower than white students', a gap unchanged from 2009 through last year.

Over time, fourth-grade reading skills are the only clear bright spot in Florida's NAEP results. Florida's fourth-graders trailed their national peers through the 1990s, caught up with them 12 years ago and have been ahead of the nation since 2005. Elsewhere, results for Florida students are mixed. For example, the state's eighth- and 12th-graders have been below the national average in math on every single test; for eighth grade, that dates back to 1990.

The state's success in fourth-grade reading is a significant accomplishment, but it means little if it doesn't translate to higher achievement by the time those students leave high school. The next time supporters of Florida's standardized testing and accountability system sing its praises, ask them why the state's high school seniors don't match up well against their peers from other states.

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Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

The Trump administration’s abrupt reversal on its foolhardy plan to allow more oil drilling off Florida’s coastlines is a win for the Sunshine State, regardless of whether it is based more on politics than environmental concerns. Drilling poses a uni...
Published: 01/10/18
Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Getting to the bottom of the shootings that left two people dead after a New Year’s Day teen party, one a 15-year-old girl, is the job of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators so far have said that the two security guards who fired ...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/12/18