Is there hope for a rational testing system? Senator Don Gaetz has been a moderating voice on Florida’s overwrought testing and accountability system. He called for the reduction of the weight from 50% to 30% of the student gain scores that are counted in teacher evaluations. Then, in the 2015 session, he proposed substituting national tests like the SAT and ACT for the FSA. Since college bound students must take these tests anyway, it is redundant to have them sit for state assessments as well.
Chinks in the armor of the Florida educational system alarmed the pro test Florida House. Senator Gaetz’s bill SB 1360 died for lack of a companion bill. While Senator Gaetz will be term limited out, Politico reports that Senator Montford will raise the possibility again in the 2017 session.
Federal law requires annual testing, but it leaves the use of the test scores up to the States. States have to evaluate student progress over time, but they are not required to use test scores to grade schools and teachers. There is an opening for the design of an effective but less punitive system.
It makes good sense (and cents!) to support struggling schools and students. Federal Title I money helps provide funding. Districts can organize schools and programs to create more learning opportunities. It is much more productive to garner support for ‘striving’ schools than for ‘failing’ schools. Communities can consolidate resources and generate enthusiasm to help at risk children when there is a sense of hope. When schools are simply labeled ‘failures’, by receiving ‘F’ grades, it sends out the message that nothing can be done; it is a lost cause.
We need to craft a message of promise and opportunity to send to our legislature.