September's Letter of the Month is from Kenny Blankenship of Land O' Lakes, who wrote about the Common Core State Standards:
Gov. Rick Scott recently issued an executive order that pulls Florida out of the PARCC system of assessments for the new Common Core State Standards. In response, House Speaker Will Weatherford released a statement saying, "I applaud Governor Scott for taking decisive and bold action to affirm Florida's constitutional role in education. For the past 15 years, Florida has been on a purposeful road to improve our schools through higher standards, greater accountability and higher pay for our best teachers. These efforts are paying off and our students are achieving better results."
What is clear is that the education system in Florida is clearly broken. After 15 years of high-stakes testing, school grading and now an evaluation system of teachers based on testing, the public is losing faith in how the state manages public education.
Scott's executive order puts a heavy burden of the blame on the federal government for efforts at controlling local schools. But that is exactly what the state has been doing for 15 years. The real experts on education reside in the classrooms and schools throughout the state. Local communities know better than the state what works and doesn't work in schools. They adapt to local needs and don't use the one-size-fits-all template that has been imposed by Tallahassee for too many years.
While the governor's approach might lead to some positive changes, we need a complete overhaul of the accountability system from top to bottom. Florida's teachers and school employees have been repeatedly ignored when political leaders and the Tallahassee education establishment have built this flawed system. It is long past time that teachers and other school employees be included as an integral part of forming a new education system that can be strongly supported by parents, students, teachers, administrators and the political leadership.
If the same education "reformers" who built this broken system are charged with making minor changes, the system will still be broken. Without any input and buy-in from the education experts in the classrooms and the local schools, public education in Florida will not make any real progress.
This is an opportunity for Florida to set public education on the right path. The governor's executive order said that the evaluation system should help teachers support student learning. That would be a great improvement over the current system that generates data that is used to shame and blame teachers and schools.
Kenny Blankenship, Land O' Lakes