balled up test sheet

Opinion by Kathleen Oropeza The Sun-Sentinel

No one wants success more than Florida’s public school students. They work hard every day and despite difficult challenges, remain heartbreakingly hopeful.  Even so, Florida politicians are determined to use high stakes tests to label, sort and fail these precious souls. Instead of empathy, Florida politicians treat our children with disdain.

Lawmakers no longer have the luxury of ignoring the anger parents have toward Florida’s failed accountability system.  Some incorrectly assume that if they feign concern over testing everyone will simmer down.  When Sen. John Legg filed SB 616 as a testing “conversation starter” he seemed sincere.  Not so fast.

Legg’s bill provides zero relief for students from Florida’s most punitive measures.  They will still be retained, denied diplomas, lose electives and be thrown into remediation based on the unproven Florida Standards Assessment. In fact, SB 616 closely mirrors the position of lobbyists at the Foundation for Florida’s Future.  It fails to address the inadequacy of a one year pause on school grades as a transition plan. Last year the repeated pleas of parents, teachers, school boards and superintendents for a three-year testing transition fell on deaf ears.

Senators Don Gaetz, David Simmons, Dwight Bullard and Bill Montford have bravely expressed that they truly don’t know how much time or tax dollars are consumed by state mandated tests or whether these tests are valid or reliable.  Our children need their leadership now.  The question is will these politicians be able to defy the current reform agenda and provide some real relief from high stakes testing?

Their time to act is now. Florida’s A-F high stakes Accountability System is collapsing under its own weight. The legacy of past legislative sessions filled with selfish grand bargains, flawed reform ideology, internal disputes and mutual recriminations have finally come home to roost.

How can lawmakers expect 100% perfection from our children but have the nerve to expect us to forgive their own massive failure?    Where’s their accountability for the billions of dollars they spent on testing vendors instead of investing in a high quality system of public education for every child?

How do we ever come to terms with the loss of all those once-hopeful children slipping into adulthood believing they aren’t smart because the state of Florida said so? The lack of empathy built into Florida education reform is unbearable.  Our enlightened senators must use their enormous influence to work together and hold our children harmless while they iron out these enormous, expensive testing mistakes. It’s the very least they should do.