"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, June 15, 2012

The Fight Against High Stakes Testing Will Not Be Easy

The state of Florida remains at the forefront of education issues so it is useful to keep an eye on how things are going there. In a nutshell, they are not going well.

At a recent meeting of the Florida School Boards Association, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson gave a lunchtime speech in which he essentially told the local school boards, comply or else when it comes to the state's main assessment the FCAT.  The Association of 67 school boards across the state is working on a resolution opposing high stakes testing as the main tool for student and teacher evaluation. Robinson said of the local school boards, "They can express their opinion, but let’s also remember the local school board’s obligation is to implement the laws approved by the Florida Legislature; to implement the regulations approved by the state board.”

Got that everyone? You have only as much local control as your state legislature gives you. In Florida the legislature and State Board of Education are together in their support of the FCAT.  It is top down control and that line of command was just emphasized by their Commissioner. If anyone is going to be successful in getting things changed, they are going to have to focus their efforts on the legislature and the BoE. Talking to your teacher, principal, school board member or even superintendent will do you no good. They have no authority to affect change.

The FL BoE is hanging tight to the FCAT because they believe it has produced results.

“If you take a look at where students have performed in math, reading, writing as well and other subjects, we’ve been moving in the right direction for over a decade,” Robinson said. “That didn’t happen overnight. That happened because we set accountability and assessments are in place.”

That is a complete disconnect from the experience of the teachers and parents at the point of implementation.  One school board member characterized it this way, "for our Florida Department of Education not to be willing to listen to the concerns from parents, and students and school board members all across the state of Florida? We have a problem. We have a communication problem, we have a messaging problem."

They have more than a messaging problem.  They have an ego and an economic problem. Jeb Bush has a lot of his personal political worth on the line with education reform in FL. BobsIdleMusings noted, "He cannot remain education reforms voice if he is being challenged by the state’s local school boards – many of them filled with republicans."

They have an economic problem because of all the ties in to Pearson who produces the FCAT and has the company's  future viability challenged if they do not have a lock on the standardized testing protocol in the state. Osceola County School Board member Jay Wheeler said the FCAT, started “with the best intentions,” has turned into a successful “business model for Pearson” — which earns millions from Florida — but not something meant “to help kids.” Where business and politics cross is dangerous territory.

In Missouri, the line of command goes from DESE, through the legislature to the local districts. Many times the legislature has deferred to the decisions of DESE, even when such decisions were not pre-approved by the legislature and end up costing the state money that was not budgeted for by the legislature. Still, it is top down authority. Since our legislators have taken a somewhat hands off approach when it comes to things like Common Core Standards, high stakes testing and longitudinal database creation which were all brought into the state single handedly by DESE, the only way to change things is through DESE whose leadership is appointed by the governor.  Starting to look at the governor's race any differently?

And for those districts crazy enough to apply directly for the new RTTT funding, the line of command will bypass the state all together and come directly from Washington. You think DESE doesn't listen to you or plays hardball? Wait til you try to get an answer, some help or relief from DC.


  1. Jeb's figures he's got royal blood, it seems to be a family goal to declare themselves America's royal family. He and the media are having a hard time accepting the fact America's conservatives are Bushed..

    Funny thing is it's Bill Gates pulling the strings-- Like Obama, Jeb is on Gates Payroll

  2. Florida is a preview of coming attractions on compliance-driven education reform. It is becoming a stellar example of the depth of disagreement parents, community members, and taxpayers have with current reform initiative, and represented by local and elected school board officials.


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