United Front in Jacksonville Opposes Field Test Folly


From Denise Smith Amos in the Florida Times-Union:

Decrying what they call an untested test, leaders in Duval schools and teachers union — and some parents — urged voters Wednesday to flood state legislators’ phones and emails this week, urging them to slow down on some of the punitive aspects of the state’s new tests.

Duval teachers union president Terrie Brady, three school board members and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti called a press conference Wednesday, saying the new tests that will replace Florida’s FCATs are still under development and there won’t be enough time for them to be “field tested” properly before students must take the tests in spring 2015.

They warned that people will feel less confidence in the new test results and in the state’s A-through-F grading system, if the new exams are not properly vetted and improved before the scores count against students, schools and districts.

Duval Teachers United, like other teacher unions in Florida, recommends the state wait three years before imposing sanctions or punishments for poor test scores.

“For 15 years FCAT has judged, sorted and doomed the students of Florida,” Brady said.

“They’re failing third graders, denying diplomas to students who work hard every day and tying test scores to teacher salaries … We are asking for a suspension of the entire accountabilty system for three years to get it right after so many years of getting it wrong.”

When the FCAT began in 2000 there were five years of field testing before sanctions were imposed on schools or districts, Brady said.

Vitti opposes issuing any school grades for a year, until the state knows that its test works.

“Anyone will tell you that before you use a new assessment, it needs to be properly field tested,” he said. “We are losing what little faith people have in the accountability system when we (in Florida) make irrational decisions.”

This remarkable press conference which featured Vitti unified with the board and teacher’s union is extremely noteworthy as he has been lionized by the state’s school choice cabal. And the visual demonstrates how isolated republican legislators, test-based lobbyists and bureaucrats have become. It is the later who benefits most from this lock-down on this out-of-control accountability regime.

Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of Fund Education Now explains in the Tampa Tribune:

For years Florida politicians and bureaucrats have struggled to explain their public education vision. The move to a new test has been plagued by a lack of foresight. For example, it must be taken on computers, yet there’s no meaningful plan to fund technology for all 67 districts.

Even the selection of the new test provider, AIR, was made at the 11th hour and the much-discussed “field test” is the entire state of Utah, not targeted areas of Florida as the superintendents suggested. And because no Florida test exists, Utah is going to bill us $5.4 million to use some of their questions.

Given the fact that the Florida Board of Education has publicly recognized the shortcomings of Florida’s A-F School Grades Accountability System, the only thing on members’ mind should be taking the high stakes out of testing. Instead, they built their entire “transition” around preserving school grades: the weakest link of all.

Neither today’s press conference, nor Oropeza’s piece make mention of the Common Core bait-and-switch that has enraged Core’s opponents. The bad news for Florida’s ed policy ruling class is that their opponents are beginning to find common ground.

 

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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