Parents, teachers and education advocates across the state are relieved that the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) has joined them in declaring an open distrust of the high-stakes FSA testing scheme and its broken credibility.  FADSS issued a unanimous statement today confirming that they had lost all confidence in the state’s school accountability system.  Here are the key elements from the release:

  • Suspend any application of the results of the 2015 Florida Standards Assessment, recognizing that no one should be graded by this test, especially in the current high stakes environment.
  • If districts must be graded, all should receive an “I,” “based on the availability of limited and flawed data” related to the 2015 FSA and the growing uncertainty about the veracity of the impending 2016 test.
  • Reject the concept that the standards set for the FSA mirror the levels of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAEP). There is no evidence that NEAP is fully aligned to or measures Florida Standards. Further, “NAEP is a representative sample assessment designed to report group results, and cannot provide accurate data on individual students and schools. By law, the assessment is required to make sure that all personally identifiable information about students and schools remains confidential.”
  • Conduct an extensive review of the entire accountability system.

The statement follows September’s Board of Education meeting where former Chair Gary Chartrand devoted his opening remarks to repeatedly sell his recommendation to use NAEP as a comparative tool to set FSA cut scores as high as possible and somehow close the proficiency gap. His logic mirrors that of Jeb’s Foundation which completely ignores the fact that NAEP is an apple and FSA is an orange.  Chartrand emphasized that, “the FSA is the only objective piece of information the state provides to parents.”  When cut scores are arbitrarily set based on politics, it’s hard to understand how anyone could possibly perceive the FSA as “objective.”

BOE Vice Chair Padget recently displayed a serious disconnect when he wrote an op ed advocating another Foundation for Florida’s Future “reform” strategy – raise the FSA cut scores so high that 50% or more of the students are guaranteed to fail.  His piece included the notion that “it’s better to take a cold shower now,” as if using one test to doom a child will somehow result in future “success” and ability to “compete.” In a comedic twist, Jeb’s Foundation echoed Padget’s words by sending an “alert” earnestly urging people to advocate for the highest cut scores possible.

This storm has been brewing since at least 2009 when parents really started waking up and realizing that the Florida Legislature and “education reform” policy is openly hostile to public schools. Sen. Bill Montford,  Executive Director of FADSS, and former Leon County Superintendent, has repeatedly warned his Senate colleagues, Commissioner Stewart and the BOE that the public credibility of the A-F School Accountability scheme is damaged beyond repair.

In a recent Tampa Bay Times article, Jeff Solochek quoted Montford:

Superintendents “have been there. They have taken a lot of criticism from parents, and other professionals, because of their support and participation in it,” he (Montford) said. “Superintendents in Florida have reached a point where they cannot support the accountability system as it is moving forward.”

Public education advocates have fought so very hard to be heard, all the while being treated with gross disrespect by politicians and bureaucrats.  Education “reform” has hurt our children and harmed their schools.

Parents, teachers, students, administrators and school board members share powerful common ground. We are the people who breathe life into public schools. Is everything perfect? Far from it. There’s massive work to do. But when the superintendents of Florida put their justified fear of political retribution aside to do the right thing for the three million public school children who are counting on us, it’s a good day.