Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: There's still time for a test reform pause

A computer problem that interrupted FCAT testing for tens of thousands of students this week underscores the reasons Florida should slow down its overhaul of school testing and grading systems. Blind adherence to a deadline rather than making time for a reasonable implementation plan defies logic and threatens to run the state's education system off a cliff. Again. It is still not too late to hit the brakes.

On Tuesday, Pasco and Hernando County students were among children in at least a dozen Florida school districts who were unable to complete their FCAT exams because of computer problems. Some students couldn't sign in. Others reported slow responses when they tried to download test questions or submit answers. State officials blamed test provider Pearson Education. By Wednesday, the server problems responsible for the glitches had been fixed, though Pasco suspended testing on Thursday because of local connection issues. Despite the quick fix in most districts, the damage to the state's credibility and perhaps students' confidence was already done. It was not the first time the state has had problems with Pearson. The company's system also stalled in 2011 during end-of-course algebra exams.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has ignored the advice of county school superintendents and pressed forward with the adoption of a new school grading system, the selection of a company to create new standardized tests and the full implementation of a new curriculum, Florida Standards. A train wreck like Tuesday's testing debacle is exactly what superintendents have been trying to warn Stewart about. The Department of Education is undertaking a gargantuan effort. Frontline workers in schools have repeatedly told state officials that the department should slow down. But they keep plowing ahead. A stumble this big on tests the state has been giving since the 1990s lends credence to the theory that the education department has taken on more than it can handle.

By their nature, computers can be undependable. That's why a backup plan is critical as the state moves toward a myriad of changes next school year. The state should stop speeding though this important transition just to score political points and avoid taking a breather that would remind families of a time when there was not so much high-stakes standardized testing. Meaningful accountability continues to be the goal, but the race to get there without proper planning invites more trouble.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Updated: 12 hours ago
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 ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
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

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
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

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
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