What Jeb Bush Has Wrought

News came  yesterday that influential Florida politicians were calling on the Florida Board of Education to reconsider recent grade changes as they adversely affect english-langauge learners. From Jeff Solochek in Gradebook:

The Florida Board of Education’s decisions to change the state school grading system to count the proficiency levels of students still learning English has drawn criticism from some of the state’s top Hispanic politicians.

 U.S. Rep. Iliana Ros-Lehtinen, state Sen. Rene Garcia and state Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera have sent letters (attached below) to the board deploring its new policies, and the fact that several recommendations made by educators and activists were completely overlooked. They’re asking the board to think again, with an eye toward removing barriers that could hurt schools and students who can’t necessarily show their academic prowess in English.

 “By not including any of the recommendations of the Task Force, your actions will severely impact the positive trend in student achievement made by Miami-Dade County Public Schools and various other school districts,” wrote Garcia chairman of the Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus.

Perhaps this is what Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho was alluding to last week. Still, its important to be clear that the current multilevel FCAT chaos cannot be blamed on either the board or Commissioner Gerard Robinson. Grade changes were required to abide by Florida’s NCLB waiver.

Commissioner Gerard Robinson told the board during its May meeting that some of the recommendations put forth require legislative action before they can be put in place. He also stated that Florida’s federal No Child Left Behind waiver depends on implementing new rules that fully account for the test results of both ELL and special education students.

Former Governor Jeb Bush wanted this waiver for Florida and openly encouraged Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to grant waivers to states like Florida. This from Bush’s August 2011 POLITICO piece:

……Education Secretary Arne Duncan should use existing waiver authority to provide regulatory relief, so leading states can pass reforms that deliver results for students. States like Indiana, Florida and others provide a clear template.

Not all states should be given this flexibility. The bar should be set high, with greater flexibility rewarded only to states that implement bold reforms that improve the quality of education and student achievement.

 This could free states moving from “pass/fail” to an A-F school grading system, based on student proficiency and academic growth. A-F systems are more intuitive to parents and the public. They also help leaders to clearly differentiate rewards and interventions for schools.

Florida, for example, pioneered the practice of awarding schools letter grades based on a balanced formula of student proficiency and learning gains — with an emphasis on the advances made by the lowest performing students.

So Florida now has the waiver that the only education policy-maker who matters in Jeb Bush wanted. It’s now up to the board members and his hand-picked commissioner Robinson to fix the mess he wished on the state’s system. One wonders if the republicans who wrote the letter know that this was essentially Bush’s idea. It must be torture if they do. For republicans, to think that Bush has been wrong all along on education is unthinkable

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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