Florida Democrats File Bills to Pause Exams, Accountability Regimes

From Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory:

For months, school superintendents have been asking the state to slow down the transition to new standards, statewide exams and accountability measures.

On Thursday, the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (a.k.a. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee) put that request into a formal legislative proposal.

The bill, SB 1368, seeks to ease Florida school districts into the new accountability system.

There’s a lot going on. Districts must fully transition to the new education benchmarks known as the Florida Standards by next year. The state Department of Education expects to introduce new, computer-based state tests at that time, too. (The exams have yet to be selected.)

What’s more, the department is in the middle of rolling out a new performance-pay program for teachers.

Many educators worry they won’t be prepared to teach and test the new standards by next year. And superintendents are concerned they won’t have accesss to the technology needed for computer-based testing.

Montford’s proposal would push the timeline back by three years. It would suspend the controversial school grading system until 2017-18, though schoolwide student performance data would still be reported publicly.

The bill would also modify the teacher evaluation system during the transition.

“The proposed legislation establishes a transition accountability system,” Montford wrote in a statement. “It ensures that all of e Six the elements are in place –- standards, assessments, instructional materials, technology, and a fair teacher evaluation system — before high stakes are imposed on students, teachers and schools.”

Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) is filling the companion bill in the House.

Looks like this year’s legislation session will have more edu-drama than Rick Scott cares see on his desk prior to facing voters this fall. With Sen. Greg Evers (R-Milton) filing a bill yesterday to block Common Core, its clear that the independent republican “Senate Six” won’t be rubber-stamping leadership’s education policy agenda. Says a skeptical ate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville)  on Montford-Saunders:

“I don’t mean to be flip about it, but I would be in favor of suspending measuring academic achivement when we take down the scoreboards on the football fields in Florida and we take down the scoreboards in the basketball gyms,” he told the Herald/Times last week. “And since we’re not going to do that, since we think it is important enough to keep track of who has made a first down … I think it’s at least as important to keep track of how well students are doing, what’s working and what’s not working in terms of teaching strategies, and why and how and when we would adjust those strategies to make sure children do better.”

Golly. Don’t you think that Gaetz could have done a little better than pulling out Tony Bennett’s old scoreboard? He knows that “how well students are doing, what’s working and what’s not working in terms of teaching strategies” were done long before we had Jeb Bush’s tests and school grades along with Rick Scott’s VAM.  To be fair, some of the new apparatuses in place now suits what Gaetz finds most important. Too bad the republican agenda had been to find “failing schools” to replace with charter schools and “bad teachers” to fire with test scores.

As Gaetz said last year that Florida’s entire accountability system was “in danger of imploding,” one would think he would welcome pause. Floridians are weary of the uncertain drama that has come with yearly formula changes and tweaks. Never mind moving the bar. Gaetz’ party has presided over a regime which moves the bar after everyone jumps, then changes the scores for political expediency after they land.


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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3 Responses to Florida Democrats File Bills to Pause Exams, Accountability Regimes

  1. 3D Learner says:

    A pause on school grading and teacher accountability makes sense — how do we protect the kids

  2. Tim says:

    I wonder why the Dems don’t try to merge their bills with the Reps and create a coalition pass both, or at least a compromise. Of course, I am hoping we forge ahead with this insanity so it implodes that much faster. At that point we can start over.

  3. Brenda says:

    I am a third grade teacher and I support a postponement
    Of the new Common Core Standards in Florida. I spend more time testing my students than I do teaching them. The state of Florida has put all their evaluations(teachers, students, and school grades) based on one test. We are about to change it to new standards and a new test, without thinking it all through. I feel sorry for our students who have to be so stressed out over a test and practice test after practice test. I feel bad for teachers who have their raises and evaluations based on one test. I feel terrible for parents who are also under a tremendous amount of pressure to get their children to perform.
    The VAM scores for teachers are absolutely ridiculous and are expected to get even worse. 50% of my evaluation is not even based on my classroom data, but on how my school performs overall. I have to count on my fellow teachers to be the best, and our students to do great even though I have no control of either. It is like telling my doctor that he won’t get a raise unless all of his patients completely follow his advise, but not only that, the whole doctor’s city of doctors and their patients must also thrive before he can get a raise. Doesn’t that sound ludicrous? Teachers are really getting the raw end of this evaluation system and it must be stopped. I don’t know how it ever became law. Lawmakers need to take a very long, hard look at this system. It is very unclear, our principals and evaluators are even confused about it. The general public has no idea what is really happening in education. I work 2 1/2 hours extra daily that I basically give to the state of Florida, to keep up with demands of this field. The Marzano strategies were not meant to be an evaluation, but a tool that effective teachers can utilize. Standardized testing and the evaluation system need to be overhauled.
    I am also very concerned about the FCAT. We are giving a company millions of dollars, to produce this test, and maybe the next one for Common Core. Teachers have to sign a pledge to not talk about the test. We are not supposed to look at the test at all, yet we are supposed to teach to it. We can’t even review it because we can’t see it. We don’t know if questions are accurate, or if the test is even fair. Who does get to see it? Who writes the questions? Are they appropriate for Florida kids? Who monitors the test makers? Why do children with learning disabilities count toward school gains and my personal VAM score. Why are we only giving our English language learners one year to master English and their scores also count toward my VAM score even though I may not have taught them? These are just some of the questions that I feel need to be addressed by our law makers. I am a concerned parent, citizen of Florida, and a teacher who does not agree with the current education plan.

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