The House Committee on PK12 Quality held a thoughtful meeting.
State Rep. Matt Willhite asked “Could we do without school grading?” “When we have school grades with continuous failing grades, are we benefiting the child telling them they are in a failing school?
Sen. Jake Rayburn R. Lithia, stated that whether you give an F or not, you have to figure out what to do with low performing schools.
Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R. The Villages asked ‘If there is any benefit (from testing)? He said that the most frequent complaint he heard was about the stress and time taken away from other academic efforts at the schools.
The State School Superintendents requested a return to paper and pencil testing which take much less time to administer than testing in limited space computer labs. Removing test scores from teacher evaluations would allow districts to develop their own assessment strategies.
Of course we need to test to see how children are learning. It is a matter of how much testing is needed and how scores are used. Hitting teachers, students, and schools over the head with school grades just makes everyone frustrated and destroys neighborhoods.
Missing from the discussion was the growing evidence that over the last 15 years of school choice, many neighborhoods have gone into a downward spiral, much like in Gainesville where four low income area schools used to have grades with A, B, and Cs. Now one school is closed and the three remaining post Ds and Fs. Teachers and students leave. Socio economic data show that charters in the area do not take or keep the difficult problems. It is hard to swallow but giving parents choice has created more problems than it has solved. The charters here fail more often than the public schools.
The bottom line is that folks want to make things better, but the stronger the focus is on schools rather than kids, the bigger the problem is. Bad problems get worse. Everyone blames everyone else. Grading schools and teachers highlight problems but do not fix them.
Making schools more equal could help depending upon how it was done. Now, the three struggling schools receive $1.5 million in federal funding to support extra time and wrap around services. The money helps but does not eliminate the failing stigma. It does nothing for similar students who are dispersed in schools across the district. Once we had an extra hour and summer school, funded by the State, to help children who start school behind and stay behind. Once we had high quality early Head Start. Once we had teachers who loved their schools. Gone, all gone. But, at least people are talking.