Suggestion for Florida’s Education Policy Makers – “Living By the Same Accountability Mantra They Preach to Others”


A second widely read columnist picked up their pen today and pummeled Florida’s “test-obsessed” accountability system and the policy-makers who drive it. Writing in the Orlando Sentinel, Scott Maxwell dishes out his typical brand of clever acerbity and gives out his own grades. They weren’t very good and his summation has even more bite.

This state is obviously having problems, yet anyone who objects is branded as anti-accountability.

The argument is bogus — a red herring for those who can’t argue the facts.

Because the facts show that Florida’s test-obsessed method of teaching — spending as much as 70 days a year preparing for standardized tests — is riddled with flaws.

I like the inclusion of standardized testing. I think it’s good to measure kids.

But I don’t think we should cut other vital parts of a well-rounded education — such as science, civics, arts and P.E. — to make way for more testing.

I think the tests should be a tool, not the center of this state’s education universe.

And I think Florida should get things right — and own up when it doesn’t.

Gov. Rick Scott recently said he would reassess the state’s FCAT obsession. And to his credit, Commissioner Robinson has been getting out more, listening to parents and teachers.

Good for both of them. That’s a good first step.

A good second one would be living by the accountability mantra they preach to others.

The heat will soon be felt by Governor Rick Scott. It was his idea afterall to rank school districts by FCAT scores in January. Even Gerard Robinson appeared to see this as a bad idea. So did Board of Education Vice Chairman Roberto Martinez. Scott’s wisdom on education deserves to be called into question. In evading some tough questions from FOX’s  Neil Covuto last year after the passage of SB736 – the laughably named Student Success Act, Scott weaseled out with “its gonna be great.”

Right.

Schools begin to open around Florida in two weeks. Floridians go to the polls in 20 days to vote in primaries, many of which will determine (some counties are dominated by one party or the other) who be winning school board seats and become superintendents.  Despite redistricting, a significant swing isn’t expected in the Florida legislature, but some key republican senators like Paula Dockery and Evelyn Lynn who helped defeat Parent Trigger in March are term-limited and will not be there to protect public schools.

Small wonder Jeb Bush has boasted Parent Trigger will return and is lobbying legislators now. Some have reported that the bill’s last sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) has no interest in doing so again. Bush will need recruit another GOP senator to become the bill’s face.

But all this is getting closer to becoming moot as the very system which will find schools to be failing for triggers to happen is being effectively mocked just about everyday by folks like Maxwell. The whole thing is being discredited and is crumbling due to the weight of its own absurdity. Calling Florida’s policy-makers “test-obsessed” doesn’t quite tell the whole story. They and their policies are “test-dependent.” Neither can even breathe without tests – a creepy absoluteness that Floridians have awakened to.

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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