Thursday, June 21, 2018
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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18