School Grades: Gaming the System

donkey-776511_640Charles Dickens wrote:  “The law is an ass”.  The point was that some laws defy common sense.  School grades fit that category.

The latest buzz is about the release of 2014-15 school grades without including students’ test score gains.  This decision is attributed to Governor Scott.  In a way, it makes sense. After all, we have a new state test.  How can you report gains on a new (FSA) more difficult test using scores from an old (FCAT 2 ) easier test?  Hard to spin those scores…let’s see ‘Down is Up”?

The real issue is the law on which the decision is based.  Today’s Politico article cites criticisms by law makers and educators who contend that the provision that schools must have at least 10 students in a unit to report test results was intended to allow small school to be included in school accountability.  Is this a reasonable justification for not reporting grades this year?  After all, schools have no student achievement gain scores to use; the FSA has only been given once.

The real point to be made to the governor and the legislature is that the school accountability system makes no sense.  The use of test scores to evaluate teachers and schools  reminds me of Greek mythology…Sisyphus pushes the ball as hard as he can uphill only to have it roll back down over and over again.  Teachers and schools try to succeed but have too few resources to make significant differences in achievement.  Sisyphus and our schools can need some real help from the legislature to improve our educational system.  Test and punish get us nowhere.

New federal law puts control of the use of test scores in the hands of the state legislature.  Florida parents have the responsibility to ensure legislators listen.

Posted in Achievement, Florida, Florida House, Florida Senate.

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