Florida Can Look to Texas for Relief from Jeb Bush’s Testing Regime

Following the lead Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott’s provided with his description of standardized testing as a “perversion of its original intent,” some North Texas superintendents joined in agreement. Writes Rodger Jones in the Dallas Morning News:

Saying high-stakes standardized testing is “strangling our public schools,” superintendents of several high-performing North Texas school districts have jointly signed a letter to top state officials and lawmakers warning about the deterioration of the education system.

Call it open rebellion against the 25-year-old testing regimen. Wow.

The letter goes out to back up Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, according to Coppell Superintendent Jeff Turner. Scott asserted recently that emphasis on high-stakes testing in some places had become a “perversion” of the system that lawmakers had in mind. Scott’s comments about testing inflamed Texas Association of Business chief Bill Hammond and put the governor’s office on edge.

So the superintendents wrote:
We completely agree with Bill Hammond when he writes, “If we do not deliver a quality education system that prepares our students for college and careers, Texas’ ability to attract new business, improve our economy and maintain our competitiveness will surely falter. Our very prosperity as a state, its business and its people stands in the balance.” 

However, we completely disagree with the idea that the way to success for all students is through more standardized tests. In fact, we believe that more tests where students
memorize and fill out bubble answer sheets in order to graduate will continue to keep us from being able to reach the very goals upon which all Texans agree

When one considers that California Governor Jerry Brown – governor of another large state – has already signaled opposition to testing, the addition of Texas to the list of opponents is significant. It makes Florida’s recent tightening of standards and decision to rank districts based on FCAT as out of touch. Rodgers senses this, too, and offers, “one thing is clear — the momentum belongs to those who object to the way tests have come to dominate school life.”

There’s more in the Texas testing template that can be applied in Florida. Rodgers shares a letter he received from a member of the Texas Board of Education:

Sir: The exchange between Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott and myself dealt with the heavy burden state mandated testing has on effective teaching and learning in Texas classrooms.

Because of the vigorous punitive measures taken against districts, schools and teachers when scores are below minimum expectations, most districts have created a test based local curriculum. In many school districts, mandated common assessments directly linked to the state exam are required to be given every two weeks. In a school with 1,500 students and four core subject areas, that multiplies out to 108,000 tests.

Add to that the state required standardized tests, district benchmark tests, district mid and end of year testing, test warranted by the teacher’s actual lessons and a battery of test dealing with our immigrant population, you will get a picture of how education has devolved into a mire of testing, data disaggregation, and more additional frustrations for dedicated teachers.

What drives this kind of education? In Texas, it might be the one hundred million dollars paid every year to the test publisher.

Last year, the first year of a new state five-year contract with Pearson Educational Measurement–the publisher–Texas taxpayers paid out that sum. The same amount was paid for this year’s test.

By the end of the current contract, Pearson will have been paid one half billion dollars.All of this is happening at a time of deep budget cuts in education, school closings, overcrowded classrooms and, worst of all, teacher dismissals.

So, you see, it is not a perversion; it is a reality.

As an educator and education official in this state, I have made it my crusade to expose and ultimately end this travesty in our schools.

Emphasis mine. While considering things that are perversions, a major bank roller of Jeb Bush’s foundation is Pearson. It seems that every education initiative in Florida comes from Bush and his reputation depends on the sanctity of standardized tests. The corporate ed reformers he represents cannot survive without standardized tests meaning everything.

Florida’s republican dominated legislative body can easily dismiss a Democrat governor like Jerry Brown as a crackpot. But the revolt that’s happening in a republican state like Texas  will give them pause as its potentially large enough to stand up to Jeb Bush.



About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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2 Responses to Florida Can Look to Texas for Relief from Jeb Bush’s Testing Regime

  1. Sandra says:

    California and Texas cannot be ignored. Now will the legislatures act and formulate an accountability plan that is reasonable and fiscally responsible? Is $100 million all the costs? Does it include distrct costs? What is the national investment in this test addiction?

  2. Bethany M says:

    I live in Florida, and my children are in the 11th largest school district in the country, Palm Beach County. Everything is based not only on the FCAT, but on the Diagnostics that are given 3 times a year. If the scores are below expectations, it hurts the children by placing them in remedial/intensive classes. In Elementary school, that means no science class at some schools, so the kids go to remedial reading class for up to 90 minutes a day. In middle school, that means, no electives, and intensive math and reading classes. Even if a child’s teacher says the child is brilliant, and the child gets good report card grades, that child is still at risk of remediation if the “standardized test” scores are not in the range that the district needs to show gains. How does this help the children? It doesn’t. It makes them feel insecure, punished, and puts over emphasis on Reading and Math that in the long run makes the kids dread school. In turn, these kids lose interest in school altogether. One of my children who is extremely bright, HATES school. And this did not even happen to him. He cannot stand the multiple choice, drone style of work, and feels his time is being wasted and he is being cheated. So it’s not just the lower income children, or at the “at risk” children that these education policies are affecting. It’s every kind of child. How can children respect school, when they are threatened that if they do not pass a state test, they will not graduate, or they will not have electives? Do we not trust the very teachers we hire to educate and test our children accordingly? This country is driven by the “Profit over People” mentality, and millions upon millions of dollars are being paid to companies like Pearson to make these tests, tests even the very teachers that spend hours with our children, don’t even get to see. Whose idea was that? I shouldn’t have to contemplate Private School to escape these tests, and to have electives offered that would really interest my child. My 7th grader’s school has NO ART, NO CHORUS, NO DRAMA, and NO HOME ECONOMICS choices as electives. How does that lack of electives encourage her to pursue other interests? It doesn’t. And why does the school not offer those electives? Because they are funding intensive math and reading classes for the kids that don’t do well on the FCAT. So you see, the policies the state of Florida has put into place, are NOT HELPING OR PROPERLY EDUCATING the children in Florida. Let the entire country take note, and more policy makers like Jerry Brown and Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott need to stand up and shout, our children deserve better, our teachers deserve better, and while I am at it, parents deserve a better education for our children.

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