FairTest Pubic Education Director Bob Schaeffer responds to the narrative that Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson is advancing during appearances around the state which he’s making to defend the state’s test-dominated accountability system:
Despite Governor Rick Scott’s recent admission that Florida may be testing too much, state Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson is promising that the number of standardized exams administered in public schools will actually increase over the next few years. A story in Friday morning’s (SW Florida) News-Press reports on Robinson’s meeting with that paper’s editorial board:
“The FCAT 2.0 state exam will still exist alongside Common Core assessments, Robinson said, adding that the new exam will provide better data and reinvigorate teachers.”
Moreover, at a Wednesday evening, July 18 public forum at Edison State College, which I attended, Robinson aggressively defended every facet of the FCAT, despite criticisms from audience members. There is no question that Comm. Robinson is entitled to his own opinions, even if they may be driven by a faith-based, ideological commitment to tests and vouchers, not data. But he is not entitled to fabricate his own “facts.”
Among the straight-forward falsehoods stated by Comm Robinson at the Edison State forum, according to my notes and newspaper reports:
Robinson claimed Florida is “closing the achievement gap” between racial groups. In fact, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that Black-White and Hispanic-White score gaps have narrowed slightly in Florida over the past two decades, just as they have nationally. Independent researchers have concluded that whatever modest progress Florida has made educationally is more likely the result of implementing a statewide reading program in 2001, emphasizing early childhood education through the Voluntary Pre-K program, and the 2002 Class-Size Amendment.
Robinson said that it is important for adults to not reinforce the idea in students that the FCAT is “high-stakes,” arguing “the SAT is high stakes and we don’t say it’s high-stakes.” In fact the FCAT is the sole or primary factor used to determine third grade promotion, high school graduation, school grades, bonuses, voucher eligibility and now teacher tenure. That is the textbook definition of “high stakes.” For the SAT, on the other hand, there is an alternative called the ACT and about one-third of all bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities in the U.S. do not require either exam from all or most-applicants. The list of SAT/ACT-optional schools in Florida includes Rollins College, ranked number one among regional universities in the south and Stetson, ranked number three.
As Comm. Robinson travels around the state holding additional “Town Hall” forums, it is important to question the veracity of his claims and explore apparent contradictions. Please feel free to call on FairTest for assistance.
Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
cell- (239) 699-0468
Did Robinson really say that more tests would “reinvigorate” teachers? He can’t be serious.
At any rate, Schaeffer and FairTest represent the worst kind of opposition for Robinson. Its intellectual and researched based. When combined with a skeptical media and the visceral exasperation of Florida parents, Robinson’s appearances are becoming reduced to traveling snake oil salesman status.