Editorial: State should listen to school superintendents on testing

Published Sept. 25, 2015

When Florida's school superintendents lose confidence in the state's entire system of accountability and call for a complete review, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart had better pay attention and change course. With one stinging voice, the superintendents say the botched rollout of the Florida Standards Assessments means the test is of no use in grading schools, evaluating teachers or judging student achievement. The superintendents are right.

If Stewart and the Department of Education cling to the fiction that the tests and their underpinnings are valid, they will continue to undermine faith in the very system they claim to promote. And they will lose more Floridians who believe in accountability but not the flawed version the state is pushing.

At a meeting in Tampa, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents made its pointed complaints public and clear: "We have witnessed the erosion of public support for an accountability system that was once a model for the nation." The superintendents continue to support accountability, but their criticisms of the state's model have grown since a review of the test's validity was conducted by Alpine Testing Solutions.

Even if the tests had no problems, how could the state measure learning gains — a key component of accountability — since it is the first year of the test without an earlier version to provide a baseline for comparison? But the test and its administration were deeply flawed, so how can it be trusted? And how is it possible to set a passing score on a test with so many problems?

These are just a few of the questions the superintendents want the education commissioner to answer. They want the system fixed before it loses all credibility. Stewart needs their support for Florida's accountability scheme to succeed. She'd better start listening.