Two Florida School Superintendents: “Florida’s School Accountability System Will Fail”

Orlando Sentinel reporter Dave Weber talked to the superintendents of schools for Orange and Seminole counties about Florida’s new accountability system and came away with  stunning news:

Florida’s runaway school accountability system is destined to fail and take with it the positive goals it was intended to accomplish, the superintendents of Orange and Seminole county schools agreed Friday.

Orange Superintendent Ron Blocker and Bill Vogel, superintendent of Seminole schools, said the state’s school districts are being overwhelmed by demands of the continually expanding accountability system. Teacher evaluations based in large part on student test scores — the latest requirement imposed by the Legislature — are unworkable and may be the tipping point, they said

We have an accountability system that is going to fall apart like a house of cards,” said Vogel, criticizing state leaders for “making up the rules as they go along” without listening to educators.

Comments by Vogel and Blocker came during a “Two Chiefs, Two Decades” program in the Orlando Sentinel’s “Florida Forward: Conversations about the Future” series. Blocker and Vogel, both retiring in June, commented on issues the schools will continue to face.

Blocker characterized former Gov. Jeb Bush as a “change agent” in bringing accountability to the schools. “I give him credit for changing the direction of education in Florida,” Blocker said.

But what initially started out as testing students to correct their deficiencies has gone astray, Blocker and Vogel said. Using student test scores to evaluate teachers is unproven and costly, they said.

School districts are struggling to come up with required end-of-course tests to evaluate teachers. The existing Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams cover only reading, writing, math and science.

“The cost is in the millions and it will bring down the entire accountability system,” Vogel said.

Blocker said the increasingly heavy student testing schedule “tends to narrowly focus” on immediate results, bringing concern whether students are gaining lasting knowledge.

Blocker said some high school students are so intimidated by the FCAT that they fail repeatedly, yet prove their abilities by passing the ACT college entrance exam, which can substitute for the FCAT graduation requirement.

Vogel and Blocker said growing pushback from the public could help bring the school accountability system back to reason.

Responding to parent complaints about testing, the Palm Beach County School Board this week discussed efforts to “stop this madness in our schools,” as Chairman Frank Barbieri characterized it.

Orange School Board member Rick Roach said during the Sentinel program that Barbieri has asked Orange schools to join the protest.

Weber correctly points out that the astonishing views of two superintendents from bill districts represents the second shot across the bow of Florida’s reliance on standardized tests. The first shot came this week when the Palm Beach School Board signed off on the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing.

I predicted earlier this week that likely opposition would be coming from Seminole and Orange county, two districts who have shown a willingness to take on Tallahassee. Board members of both districts will probably follow suit.

Partisan politics will soon be taking over in Florida on testing and accountability. Superintendents and school board members who have political aspirations for higher office – especially if they are republicans – will begin speaking out. They’ll have to weigh in as strong advocates for Jeb Bush’s inspired accountability measures as it will curry favor from the RPOF and assure future support. On the other hand, doing so will flush them out as being political opportunists whose loyalties are not with the constituents they are serving in their current jobs.


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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5 Responses to Two Florida School Superintendents: “Florida’s School Accountability System Will Fail”

  1. Sandra says:

    Waiting to see if these school boards join the resolution with Palm Beach County.

  2. I wish our FL school district would jump on board against the high stakes testing. Once again, a united front would go a long way. Unfortunately, I think too many are worried about losing their jobs. This quote has never been more true: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, make up laws about teaching.”

  3. I wish our school district would get on board against this high stakes testing movement. A united front would go a long way. Unfortunately, I think too many people are afraid of losing their jobs and aren’t speaking up. This phrase has never been more true: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, make up laws about teaching.” Wish the average person understood that this testing/accountability push is all politics…not people actually caring about your children.

  4. I am often guilty of condemning the practices of FCAT and the fact that teachers spend so much time preparing kids to pass the test rather than teaching kids how to learn and creating the excitement in them to learn. I must say that my kids have been in an A+ school in Brevard County since they started their education and though I think a lot of what the educational system does is counterproductive to encouraging learning, I have been blessed with two children that are both gifted and advanced. My Daughter is entering High School next semester and accepted into the Advanced Program and Law Academy and given that she continues on the path she has been on for 9 years, she will graduate high school with a diploma and an AA degree from our local community college. She has focused on becoming a lawyer since she was a 4th grader and I have invested in Florida Prepaid and other educational investments to help make that dream a reality for her. My son begins his middle school semester in the 7th grade this fall and has been invited and accepted into the same Gifted and advanced program that my daughter is just completing. His desire is to become an engineer, architect or some other building science career. His math scores are off the chart and his mechanical aptitude is phenomenal. I have only read to them when they were small, made them read daily and prioritized school work and education before any extra-curricular activities, and I do not take much credit for their success but give thanks for the many gifted and national board certified teachers that these two children have learned under in public school. Good educations are up to the parents to mandate their children make that the #1 priority and the talented teachers that really teach in spite of the FCAT debacle.

  5. Pingback: Floridia ed reform and ‘a danger of all this imploding’

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