While Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is trying to save Jeb Bush’s school grade system with plaintive wails like “it’s not good for students,” she won’t have the final word if the legislature chooses to act. Gradebook’s Jeff Solochek writes:
“All the options are on the table,” Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg told the Gradebook. “We’re going to have to make a decision during the session. … The Legislature could have a say.”
Legg said he had continuing concerns about the state’s ability to put a new testing system in place for 2014-15, and suggested that the assessment and accountability issues are interconnected.
“I’d rather get it done right than get it done quickly,” Legg said.
He expected discussion on the topic to intensify during the coming two months leading to the legislative session. Stewart has said she will provide her ideas for a new school grading model in February, and her proposal for testing in March. The state superintendents association called for a three-year delay in school grades in November, and repeated that recommendation this week.
It’s very interesting that Legg would be so candid as senate president Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) is understood to be against any delay. Maybe there is some wiggle room after all. Along with Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), Legg and Gaetz have proved to be a formidable and thoughtful trio on education policy.
But Gaetz’ 2013 quote that “there’s a danger of all this imploding and causing a real credibility problem for the Department of Education,” is still poignant. He understands that his legislature is passing the laws that the FLDOE is tasked with administration and regulating.
Let’s take a look at that regulation which has delivered tweaking of Common Core standards and Florida’s school grade formula by the FLDOE and the state BOE. In an ongoing debate among education reform advocates, American Enterprise Institute scholar Rick Hess took the Fordham Institute to task for its proposal that taxpayer-funded voucher schools should have to take the same standardized tests as do state public schools:
….the Fordham report is smart and polished enough, but feels surprisingly naïve about the realities of the legislative process and regulatory creep. The folks at Fordham are smart and savvy enough to know that regulation has a way of expanding. I don’t see anything in their proposal that reassures on that score. Once there’s a precedent that voucher students in private schools should be subjected to state assessments, what’s to stop a well-intentioned, enterprising legislator from suggesting those schools really ought to have certified teachers, a state-approved curriculum, state-approved facilities, a state-approved plan of emergency services, or whatnot? Absent compelling limits, it’s all too easy to imagine legislators or state education officials imposing such seemingly sensible, innocuous measures. The result would be an open invitation to bureaucratization.
By nature, a conservative like Gaetz bemoans “regulatory creep” and “bureaucratization,” yet he continues to advance legislation that creates just that. School grades, teacher evaluations, test cut scores, vouchers and charter schools have beset expanding “regulatory creep and bureaucratization” upon Tallahassee at the FLDOE.
The irony cannot be lost that it is republicans who are expanding government here and have established policies that dictates decisions are made farther away from the students than ever before. Gaetz worries about the whole thing “imploding” will be realize when this “expanding regulatory state” collapses upon its own weight.