While Lutz republican senator John Legg is justifiably being complemented by many teachers this morning for the improvements to Florida’s test-based accountability system he managed in SB 616, he subtly revealed that Jeb Bush still holds far too much sway over state republican legislators. In his closing remarks he uttered the name of Bush’s PAC in saying “children have the right to rise. ”
Brandon republican senator Tom Lee obviously doesn’t share Legg’s feelings. From Brandon Larrabee for The News Service of Florida:
….the proposal does not include language that would have allowed students who do well on the SAT, ACT or tests in high-level classes like Advanced Placement courses to skip the corresponding statewide standardized tests. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, withdrew that amendment after a blistering speech aimed at education accountability advocates like the Foundation for Florida’s Future, founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
“I’m done with the testing program in the state of Florida,” said Lee, a former Senate president and chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. “I’m done with the accountability system. Whoever those people are out there from whatever foundation they may be from, whatever testing groups they may be supporting: I’m over you. You’ve lost my confidence. And the reason you’ve lost my confidence is because I’ve got emails from you last night that said that you’re so married to this system that you don’t have a shred of common sense left.”‘
And Umatilla republican senator Alan Hays, a vocal and active critic during the entire session, stayed that way yesterday:
“It is sad that today, many of our teachers and even administrators are simply waiting to earn their retirement checks because our well-intentioned but misguided policies have taken the joy out of teaching,” Hays said.
While the Bush Foundation is calling this a victory and is patting itself on the back, the reality is that this is a roll-back of their reforms – and it was orchestrated by republicans.
The Senate proposal would put on hold the use of student test data for school grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion to fourth grade until the new Florida Standards Assessments can be independently validated. The testing platform used for the assessments has come under heavy criticism from lawmakers and the public after a rollout last month that featured log-in problems and a cyber attack.
The Senate would also scrap a law requiring school districts to come up with end-of-course tests in classes where the state doesn’t administer such exams; cap at 5 percent the share of students’ time that can be spent on testing; and reduce from 50 percent to a third the portion of a teacher’s evaluation tied to student performance.
Niceville republican senator Don Gaetz said “I think we’ve lost our way and we need to find it again.” And he wants to spend his final year in the Senate on a mission “to bring some order out of chaos.” It became clear on Wednesday that Gaetz meant what he said when he alligned with both Legg and democrat senator Bill Montford to solidify protections against FSA’s current problems.
The mantra Floridians first heard at Bush’s Tallahassee pep rally in February from House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) that “we will not retreat from accountability,” obviously made a lot of republican senators cringe. There are sure to be more than one who agreed with Tom Lee when he said, “I’m over you.”