UPDATES after the bump
Florida Governor Rick Scott followed through on his promise to be more open and created Project Sunburst, a web site which would publish the emails he receives and sends as governor. One email easily catches the eye of education policy observers across the state. It’s from a director of students affairs at a Florida private school.
Dear Governor Scott:
I am an administrator in a SACS accredited private school. Recently, laws have been passed requiring End of Course (EOC) assessments for classes such as Algebra I and Biology. I have been informed that students leaving our school will be denied credit for these classes because the EOC is not available to them, nor is there an alternative test that can be taken. This seems unfair to me since our students’ families pay their taxes as much as public school students. What’s more, these families bear the cost of education that our government would have had to carry. Private school students should not be penalized for choosing to go to Florida’s private schools. Again, I have been informed by Volusia County Director of Assessments that our students who have received credit for these classes on their transcripts, will not be given credit in a Florida public school if they should transfer. Also, we could not give an EOC ourselves because it would not be a state standardized test. What are we to do?
On another front, given the current failure rate of Florida students on these tests, it seems short sighted to not have an alternative plan for these students. Our public school system will be burdened with students repeating classes and Florida’s drop-out rate will increase. There are many students who are poor test takers, but excellent students. I have seen these students flourish in college, but now, these same students would probably not have a chance to graduate in order to go to college. How does this benefit our state?
I would appreciate an answer to this email. Thank-you for your consideration in this matter.
Darlene Hellender, MS of Ed
Director of Student Affairs
Trinity Christian Academy, Deltona
There are countless imperfections to the “choice” theme which drives Florida’s policymakers. Clearly concerned for her students, Hellender knows that Trinity’s students may return to public schools for any number of reasons. The accountability system that republicans have rammed down Floridian’s throats puts voucher and private school students in a serious Catch-22. They could certainly take the test when they get to their new school, but they would be at a significant disadvantage as they did not go through an Algebra of Biology class which covered the standards which would be on the test. Extending EOCs and other high stakes tests to private schools defeats the purpose for families who chose private schools to get away from tests.
Meanwhile Floridians will vote on Amendment 8 – the fraudulently named Religious Freedom Act – which will open the door for vouchers to schools like Trinity. The school’s SAC’s accreditation indicates it’s a fine school and the professional concern that Hellender has for her students is commendable. There are sure to be more instances where Florida’s test obsession puts families and children who are going to private schools or have vouchers in a bind.
It’s doubtful that Jeb Bush’s foundation wants Floridians to know about such problems when they vote on Amendment 8 in less than 80 days. They afterall named it in such a misleading way to begin with. Suppressing flaws, engaging in propaganda and attempting to trick voters is the way education privatization zealots roll.
UPDATE Grumpy Educators has more
UPDATE: So does Missouri Education Watch
UPDATE From conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart