Will SB 616 Sponsor John Legg Be the One to Shepherd Through a Temporary Hold Harmless on Testing?


As the week begins, the republican-dominated Florida Senate is still characterized as having a “willingness” to go slowly on accountability provisions in Senator John Legg’s SB 616 testing reform bill. They are recognizing that the state’s new FSA tests are off to a rocky start and are anticipating future problems.  Orlando republican senator David Simmons has consistently been drawing the narrative out of Florida Department of Education officials during hearings and has gotten his colleagues to use the v-word in public.

Despite what the FDOE is saying, FSA tests should never have beeen considered “valid” on arrival for the simple reason they’d never been field tested by the population whom were to take the tests. Pam Stewart are her spokespersons have been acting irresponsibly by saying otherwise, especially with so may individual kids’ tests being rendered invalid after losing them.

Despite the clumsy transition during last week’s Senate Appropriations hearing from Senator Alan Hays’ hold harmless amendment to one belonging to Simmons, Legg remained gracious and accommodating. Though the some of the teeth of Hays’ language on 3rd grade retention is out, Simmons’ is clear that FSA must be found to be valid before they can be a part of Florida’s multi-level accountability apparatus.

Maybe it’s something Legg was looking for from the start.

There were enough big guns under the control of Jeb Bush in Senate Appropriations that day  to squash Hays-Simmons and deliver the “we will not retreat from accountabilty” meme. But they remained silent and quietly allowed Simmons amendment to be adopted, signalling that they may know there are already enough republican votes to pass it in a floor vote.

Hays gave the spirit of his hold-harmless amendment quite a send-off during the hearing and may have been speaking on behalf of many of his colleagues. Leadership tries to avoid drama on the floor if they can and probably doesn’t want to hear from Hays again. Nor from Senator Nancy Detert who remains one of the Senate’s most persuasive floor speakers.

Legg deserved credit for SB 616 even before Hays-Simmons was apparently adopted. His bill includes a sober draw down on the amount of testing and a much-needed reduction in the percentage that test data will matter in a teacher’s evaluation.  If he is able to include FSA hold harmless in the bill that reaches Governor Rick Scott’s desk, it will become clear he’s become Tallahassee’s most important figure on education policy.

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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6 Responses to Will SB 616 Sponsor John Legg Be the One to Shepherd Through a Temporary Hold Harmless on Testing?

  1. I don’t know what alternative universe the author is living, but this is completely untrue. John Legg’s bill has “no legs at all!” He is a complete shill for Jeb Bush and receives his income from charter schools. he should recuse himself from voting as many others in the Bush cabal should. He will never see the light on Common Core or high stakes testing and must be called to account himself. I was in most of the committee hearings and NEVER did he show any willingness to listen. The only hope we have is that Senators not tied to Jeb Bush will rise against the Jam Job and insist on another bill which DOES solve the problem, SB1496. Here’s what I wrote about Legg’s bill: John Legg has presented a new bill February 2, 2015 with much fanfare, SB 616.

    Like most other efforts by those who created the problem, this one creates more questions than answers. His bill attempts to solve the problem of too much testing by simply demanding that schools should limit testing to 5% of the school year while it doesn’t reduce most testing requirements by the State. This limit can be exceeded by parental permission only.

    If schools can only use standardized tests 5% of class time, (9 of 180 days) does that mean just the time they are sitting and filling in the blanks? Who measures this and tracks it? What about the time they are sitting in their classroom with no teacher while she proctors the makeup tests or retests? This is what creates most of the 40% estimated class time lost in testing, not learning. We don’t have a computer for every student and the “musical chairs” problem is a huge and expensive complexity!

    Who will notify parents when the 5% threshold is reached? Is that 5% collectively by school, by class, or individually? If only “permission” is required over 5%, why would parents deny this and under what penalty? This “edict” is no better than just raising the bar and demanding better performance, a strategy they are using for testing overall. And by the way, most have agreed the tests used to measure success are unreliable at best.

    Schools must test because they are mandated to do so in statutes Senator John Legg helped create. The existing mandated tests fit nicely into the 9 day window if you don’t account for the lack of testing computers, space and proctors, retests and makeup tests, and this would not provide real relief for students, teachers and schools.

    This bill prescribes how teachers and schools must be evaluated in detail, removing all local control from local districts and providing unworkable and formulaic measures with no evidence of successful use. What makes 33% test score weight in teacher evaluation the right number? Why not 70% or 10% or 50% as it was? No one has explained or scientifically justified these arbitrary numbers which have high stakes consequences for students and teachers. The same goes for the 5% number on the amount of time for testing. Why not 1%, or 10%? This guessing game experiment has no empirical data to suggest it will improve education for students. In fact, ACT scores have plummeted since high stakes testing was imposed in 1998. We are now 5th from the bottom in the USA.

    This bill does not mention the main issue for many, and that is the content that is being “taught” to our children does not measure up, and is NOT rigorous, but crippling our children’s future. Common sense and empirical data shows the children of Florida are being short changed. Our scores were better in 1995 than they are today, yet we are constantly being fed misleading statistics on “student growth” showing otherwise. The tortured use of made up measures is just unseemly to disguise the fact that Florida’s vaunted education system is a massive failure.

    The underlying question is why the Legislature micromanages the education process at all when nearly all of them have no teaching expertise? We can use “off the shelf” Nationally Normed tests to measure how our students compare and save billions in the process. Using pencil and paper tests equalizes the districts and eliminates the musical chair complexity, costs and fears of computer failures. No explanation has ever been provided as to why pencil and paper tests should be replaced by computer only testing. Why not let certified teachers teach and accredited schools monitor the teachers?

    The answer is simple, POWER AND MONEY. Billions must be spent to purchase, maintain and upgrade computers, software and networks to prepare for computer testing. No estimate has been provided to the taxpayers and voters of Florida, but judging by the pilot project in Orange County reported Feb 18, 2104 at the State Board of Education meeting, this cost was estimated at over $2 Billion by Chair, Gary Chartrand.

    We do know, however, that the companies promoting this, Pearson, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, GE and others are the selfsame companies which receive this money. They are also making large donations to the politicians who push for computerized testing and Common Core. The Superintendents Association and State School Boards Association both list the same group of supporting corporate cronies who are benefactors in this incestuous scheme. We must hold our legislators accountable!

  2. Simple analysis of SB616: It keeps substandard Common Core standards, continues high stakes testing, increases state control over testing, and continues spending like drunken sailors without disclosing the unfunded mandates resulting in a 2 billion increase in spending on computer tests with no justification. In fact, proprietary state mandated testing has cost our students up to 40% of class time for learning and scores on the ACT have decline to 47th in the nation as a direct result. This bill must be killed. Our legislature can and should do better. There is a bill they COULD adopt, SB1496 if they really wanted reform.

  3. Senator Gaetz said this in hearings: “Here’s what I’ve learned today”
    1 “We don’t know how much time is consumed by Statewide Assessments.”
    2 “We don’t know how much money it costs to perform state mandated tests.”
    3 “We don’t know whether tests that are performed by state mandate are valid and reliable.”
    4.“We’ve learned today that we have no contingency plan if there are problems with statewide assessments.”
    5. “We have not beta tested statewide assessments.”
    Then he voted for it.
    WHY? Knowing all that. there is only one answer. MONEY AND POWER! Leadership controls everything in Tallahassee. Our shadow leader is Jeb Bush. His puppets are hoping for Washington appointments, jobs, endorsements, campaign money or other “crumbs from Longshanks’ table.”
    Jeb Bush’s special friends include, Rick Scott, Don and Matt Gaetz, John Legg, Steve Crisafulli, Eric Fresen, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Garrett Richter, Jack Latvala, Bill Galvano, Andy Gardiner, Blaize Ingoglia, Kelly Stargel, Janet Adkins, Marlene O’Toole and others you may find attending the Foundation for Excellence in Education, their favors funneling organization.
    Ask your legislators if they attend their functions. Ask who paid for their travel, expenses, incidentals, and what happened at the meetings they had there with Bush’s cronies, Pearson, Gates and other vendors.
    Now you know why and how your children, the future of Florida and the Nation, are being thrown under the bus. Will you stand quietly, or will you join us in holding THEM accountable for massive spending and purposely crippling our kids future?
    CALL THEM NOW to stop this bill, HB7069 and SB616, and start over. We pay them for solutions, not kicking the can down the road while our children are subject to State sponsored child abuse.

  4. Pingback: Why do we continue to allow them to Abuse our Children? | Stop the Testing Abuse

  5. Ro says:

    Chris is correct. THis bill does nothing.

  6. Pingback: Is Opting Out Of Standardized Tests The Right Choice For Your Child? #OptOut

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