The Fatal Disconnects in Florida’s Education Accountability System and the Emerging Education Industrial Complex


When Florida’s interim education commissioner Pam Stewart took the stage yesterday before the Senate Subcommittee on Education Appropriations to spin the release of SB 736 teacher evaluation data, her focus was on form and nuance. The only voice coming from the thicket was that of Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee). This from Florida Current reporter James Call:

“You telling me that a first grade teacher’s evaluation will be dependent upon students who perhaps that teacher had never seen?” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.

“That is correct,” Stewart said. “There are some districts that have assessments that do measure first grade teachers and kindergarten teachers and some that do not.”

Naturally Stewart has a self-preservation gene and knew how to hit the tough question out of the ball park:

“That is correct,” Stewart said. “There are some districts that have assessments that do measure first grade teachers and kindergarten teachers and some that do not.”

Stewart conceded the system is off to a rough start.

“Any time you implement anything this large there are growing pains,” she said. However, she said she is confident any flaws in the evaluation system will be found and corrected.

“What I am hearing you say is that we are on track, we’ve got some challenges, but there is no reason at this point for us to move away from what we have established in public policy in regards to teacher evaluation,” Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said in a summary of Stewart’s remarks.

“That is exactly what we are saying,” Stewart said.

You really didn’t think Stewart would say anything else, did you? She at least wants to keep that cozy chancellorship gig. Nor does she want to stop getting those invites to stuffy Tallahassee soirees.

At any rate, it appear that Florida’s public school teachers are awwwwwwesome, baby. I mean even using observations and test scores? And 97 percent?  As this whole exercise is all about making teachers accountable, lets take a look at how these numbers compare with other accountability measures. Let’s first focus on high schools.

A StateImpact and Florida Center for Investigative  Reporting piece this week found that  a whopping 54 percent of Florida college freshmen need some sort of remediation. ma

……….In 2010-11, 54 percent of students coming out of high school failed at least one subject on the Florida College System’s placement test, according to an investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida.

That meant nearly 30,000 students – high school graduates – had to take at least one remedial course in college.

There’s more. I made sport of the FDOE’s message massage of Florida graduation rates, but Palm Beach Post editor Jac Versteeg points out that we are finally getting an honest look:

Florida once used a formula that artificially inflated the state’s graduation rate. For example, Florida counted as graduates students who dropped out and tool the General Education Development test. The GED test serves a useful purpose, but it never was intended to show that someone had earned the equivalent of a traditional high school diploma.

Now Florida is using a graduation-rate formula that is becoming the national standard. In an overview released last week by the U.S. Department of Education, Florida’s 71 percent graduation rate for 2010-2011 put the state sixth from the bottom. It is better to have that honest picture than for Florida officials to continue fooling themselves — and parents.

Floridians were told and teachers were lectured that SB 736 would help assure that “every child has access to a quality education.” And according to SB 736 data, Florida’s teachers are doing more than their part. But what does it say when graduation rates and remediation rates don’t reflect this? Are there other factors at work? Poverty, perhaps? That can’t be it. No excuses, right?

Florida high school grades were said to be coming out this fall, and there’s only a few weeks of that left. So we will look at school grades for elementary and middle schools.

For the first time, the state used more stringent standards and new achievement levels to determine school grades.

According to the 2012 school grades report for elementary, middle and some combination schools released today by the Florida Department of Education, 89 percent of schools, 2,301 total, earned an A, B or C grade and 11 percent, or 285 schools, received a D or F grade.

While a number of those failing schools were charter schools most of which didn’t have their teachers evaluated via SB 736 guidelines, how can the public schools – with good teachers – be failing? Teachers are supposed to be the most important factor in a child’s success. Why the disconnect?

A comment was left in my blog this week from an Indiana teacher who was at a presentation then state ed boss Tony Bennett was making to teachers. Bennett told them not to ask any questions about his reform efforts as “that train has already left the station.” While this anecdote is one of countless reasons why Bennett is so wrong for the Florida post, the episode illustrates why the state’s policy-makers will  evade and ignore the vivid disconnects in the numerous accountability system they’ve imposed on Florida schools, children and teachers.

Pam Stewart couldn’t have said anything else to Thrasher about the SB 736 data even if she wanted to. Both she and Bennett are part of what’s become the  Education Industrial Complex ruled by its own Orwellian though police. That train has left the station and to speak ill off it gets you thrown off.

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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One Response to The Fatal Disconnects in Florida’s Education Accountability System and the Emerging Education Industrial Complex

  1. Pingback: Pam Stewart Addresses SB736 in the Senate | Florida Parents and Educators

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