The Breaking Republican Senate Coalition on Testing

Nobody really knew that Tampa republican senator Tom Lee felt as he did on Florida’s high-stakes testing regime until yesterday when he took to the senate floors made these comments during debate on SB 616:

Senator Lee: We’ve gotten an A on conceptual aspects of believing in accountability and high standards, but we’re getting an F on execution.”

Senator Lee: “I don’t like this bill. I don’t think it goes far enough.”

Senator Lee: “I would like this Chamber to send the strongest possible message to the Department of Education and our colleagues in the House that we think there’s too damn much testin’ going on in this state.”

Senator Lee: “There is too damn much testing… Just lining the pockets of the testing companies.”

Senator Lee: “The die is cast. We have lost the public relations war in our communities over testing, and all the theory and all the concept is great, but the parents aren’t buying it anymore.” (taken)

Umatilla Senator Alan Hays showed his colleagues that he wasn’t going away yesterday either:

Senator Hays: “Help me understand how you can make that connection when you have a test that has not been validated yet”.

Senator Hays: “How can we use a test that has not been validated?”

Senator Hays: I hope that we can make it very clear that no student will be inappropriately retained, no school grade will be inappropriately assigned, and no administrative or teaching personnel will be inappropriately evaluated by an invalid test.”

Senator Hays: “Don’t we owe it to the students, the parents, and the teachers of this state to do it right instead of doing it in a hurry?”

Senator Hays: We have made a mess of education.

The comments of Lee and Hays were delivered in the face of a compromise amendment filed by Tallahassee democrat Bill Montfrord, Niceville republican Don Gaetz and SB 616’s republican sponsor John Legg from Trinity. From Sunshine State News reporter Allison Nielsen:

…sponsored by Sens. Legg, Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, which would require a validity test to be conducted by a third party before schools are given grades or students are penalized for poor performance.

Gaetz admitted the state should have looked into the test before moving forward, but said there wasn’t much that could be done at this point.

“The fact is, we’re in real time now,” he said. “We have two choices … we can either have an independent evaluation or we cannot have one. I’d rather have one than not have one.”

Montford said he would be hard-pressed to support the bill if the grading issue wasn’t confronted head-on.

“We’re in a mess,” he explained. “Quite frankly, to me, I couldn’t support a bill if we didn’t have something to address school grades.”

Gaetz attempted to sooth colleagues fears with “there is a way to do concordant scores and to cross walk those into a school grades so those students are not beleaguered by duplicative testing.” Any “third-party’ would be under the purview of the Florida Department of Education.

Yes, Gaetz went there. Senators and Floridians should be reminded that concordant scores (cut scores) – some sort of sliding scale to compare FSA and FCAT – would be created by an untrustworthy FDOE whom have been calling invalid FSA tests valid for the past six weeks. Scathing Purple Musings remembers the last time that the FDOE needed to do concordant score or cut scores here. in 2013. And how even Legg complained about the slow pace.

In 2013, then commissioner Tony Bennett was tasked with establishing a concordant score between FCAT, the ACT and the SAT. All of these had years of results and a reasonable data pool. How on Earth Gaetz believes that one year of FSA results compares with any other assessment is far more of a stretch. Especially with a conflicted FDOE and Rick Scott’s hand-picked Florida Board of Education in charge.

The republican-controlled Senate took several steps backward yesterday as they realized enough of their own caucus hadn’t been convinced yet. A combination of arm-twisting by Jeb Bush’s power-brokers may not be enough to overcome organized and motivated constituents.

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 The Breaking Republican Senate Coalition on Testing

  1. Ro says:

    You mean listening to constituents is now a thing in Tallahassee? Honestly, great post Bob. I was waiting for this this morning. THe fact that the state DOE was going to create a bell curve to decide who passed and who didn’t is absurd. We really need a norm referenced test with no high stakes and I still see nothing in any of their language about denying graduation based on these tests.

  2. Wes Locke says:

    Parents, teachers, and other concerned parties need to pile on the pressure. I have worked closely with Sen. Hays on this bill and he has tried publicly and privately to get some of his republican colleagues in the senate to move. Senator Lee has recently had his eyes opened to the “train wreck” that is the FSA.
    It amazes me that the shadow of Jeb Bush still carries so much weight with Legg, Gaetz, and many other Senators. This issue could make or break either party right now. This issue will keep Jeb Bush out of the whitehouse. I don’t care how much money he raises!

  3. Sandra says:

    TY Bob

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