Kathleen Oropeza: Don’t give Gov. Rick Scott credit for ending high-stakes testing in Florida

TCPalm News/ Oct 1, 2012

Gov. Rick Scott and his advisers really need to get out more. If they were more clued in, Scott would not be out there taking credit for stopping FCAT.

Here’s a news flash: FCAT was always going away. Gov. Charlie Crist implemented a plan to phase FCAT out by 2014. The truth didn’t stop approval-hungry Scott from starring in a Republican Party political ad denouncing FCAT.

“We need our testing system to evolve so there’s no more teaching to the test,” he said.

Who can argue with that? Scott’s boys must have been hyperventilating over their own cleverness. That’s brave of them to steal the very words moms and teachers have been saying for years.

Scott goes on to say, “That’s why, next year, our schools will move to a ‘common core’ system.” Wrong. Florida is not moving to Common Core because FCAT is bad. Florida committed years ago to adopt the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which includes a test called PARCC.

Shameless pandering is not new for Gov. Scott nor is twisting the truth to eke out approval points. Let’s not forget that for 14 long years real children have been hurt by the high-stakes FCAT testing process. As a mom, it’s painful to think about all of the amazing electives Florida’s children never had because of the millions used to turn FCAT into a monster with the power to ruin young lives.

Too many Florida children are filled with worry when they should be enjoying their fleeting childhoods excited about learning. Every adult should be grief-stricken over the millions of children who never learned to be critical thinkers because of these failed politically driven reforms.

Florida’ problem is a dystopic obsession with high-stakes consequences, which barely conceals the for-profit education industry’s contempt for public education, teachers and our children. As a parent I am glad to see that our strenuous objections have raised awareness and drove Gov. Scott to appear in this TV spot.

In theory the Common Core state standards are great. To function properly they require an even playing field. That means charter schools, voucher schools and traditional schools would be required to take the same tests and be measured by the same standards. You know, uniformity and equity.

But this is Florida. Politicians and bureaucrats never miss an opportunity to use a new program to dismantle, defund and discredit traditional public schools. Gov. Scott isn’t fooling the moms of this state. Does the PARCC exam plus seven or more high-stakes tests for EVERY SUBJECT for EACH child sound like less teaching to the test? Does it sound like LESS PROFIT for corporate test providers?

High stakes testing is the problem. For the past 14 years Florida students have shown small incremental gains and earned uneven successes on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam. They have struggled with the constant change of one untested, expensive and unproven reform after another. Florida politicians have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on the testing industry re-purposing a failed product. That money was intended for our classrooms, not Pearson Test Prep.

It’s time for real parents and teachers to set the education policy table. We deserve to have a healthy suspicion of a “reform agenda” driven by unmitigated greed and selling testing products. The united effort of parents, teachers and school boards is the only thing standing between Florida’s children and destructive high-stakes tests.

Tallahassee bureaucrats can call it PARCC, FCAT or the “Big Live or Die Test.” If it’s high stakes, it’s not good for kids.

Gov. Scott’s image team will have to work a lot harder to raise his credibility. Parents and teachers are determined to work together to renew the promise of high-quality learning and embrace examinations that stem organically from teacher-driven classroom content, encourage critical thought and measure a level of mastery that cannot ever be “bubbled in.” One way or another, the parents of this state will be at that education policy table to clean up this mess.