The education insiders who gathered this week in Clearwater at the governor's invitation were right about continuing Florida's move to Common Core State Standards. But they failed to recommend solutions for the short term, showing little political appetite for reforming the flawed school accountability system that will be used until the new standards take hold. That's not fair to students or schools that will continue to be evaluated based on a system that's lost credibility even with a key member of the state Board of Education. Clinging to a flawed system and condoning so much collateral damage does not build public trust in public education.
The three-day K-12 summit was Republican Gov. Rick Scott's first major foray into the details of public education policy — though he failed to show up to kick it off, sending instead interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. In a room packed with county school superintendents, state lawmakers and educators, there was tacit agreement that Florida's accountability system has gone off track in the past two years as the state embraced more than 30 changes to the school grading formula. Some of those changes may have been warranted, but the result — combined with continued changes in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — is a scheme so complex and mistrusted that for the second year the Board of Education had to tweak the final results.
That prompted Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan of Tampa — former chief of staff to then-Gov. Jeb Bush, the architect of Florida's school accountability system — to propose, but to no avail, that the state forgo awarding school grades until changes could be made. Abolishing school grades remains a more rational solution than the status quo, where the state intends to hold schools "accountable" under a system that isn't accountable for its own flawed methodology.
Scott's education summit ended up tacitly embracing such dysfunction for another year when it sidestepped the issue, focusing more on how the accountability system would work starting in 2014-15, when the Common Core State Standards are fully implemented. That shouldn't be the final word.
The last round of school grades under the flawed scheme aren't due until next summer, giving plenty of time for Scott or lawmakers to issue a mea culpa and agree to take a break from assigning school grades until the new Common Core system is fully vetted and in place. Parents still would be able to find out how their children's schools are performing on standardized tests and other measures. But more importantly, parents, teachers and students could have renewed confidence that Florida leaders are more interested in fairly and accurately assessing schools than in propping up a legacy system that has lost credibility.