45K letters & Sen. Legg says “stop harping” about the FSA

legg-john

Florida public education advocates, you are making an impact! We used our voices this week and sent nearly 45,000 letters telling the Senate Education Committee that the FSA should not be used to grade anyone.  Now an annoyed Chairman Legg wants us to “stop harping.”  Dismissing the real concerns of parents and professionals by saying further discussion about the state’s testing mess is unnecessary does not make it so.  Aside from that, it’s extraordinarily tone deaf.

After decades of micro-managing public education, Legg claims “there’s nothing the legislature can do.”  He goes on to assert that they are “unable to stop” Commissioner Pam Stewart and the Department of Education from setting pass/fail cut scores, issuing school grades or using the flawed scores to evaluate teachers. Legg’s comment lacks credibility. He knows Stewart is an unelected political appointee with an ardent penchant for rule following.  The FSA testing mess was wholly created by the Florida Legislature. Period.

During the Senate hearing, politicians were dogmatic about preserving the political agenda of “ed reform.” Even though the EdCount/Alpine  study team will not deem the FSA 100% “valid,” committee members said any discussion of alternatives is useless. Looking for a better way, such as using limited standardized tests only as transparent diagnostic tools would destroy Florida’s A-F Accountability scheme.  Reformers know that without high stakes there would be no classroom fear or chaos. There would be no leverage to use against us .

Happily, not all Senators are interested in business as usual. From Politico Florida:

Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who also heads the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said he’s not satisfied.

“This meeting today gave me no more comfort. In fact, it even gave me more questions about the process that was used, the conclusions that it came to,” he said.

He acknowledged the Legislature wouldn’t meet in time to pass a bill stopping school grades and argued the department was wrong in deciding to issue them despite the flawed testing administration.

“The Department of Education will say there will be no penalty,” Montford said, referring to the legislation that removes sanctions related to the ratings for this year. “If you give a school the grade of an F, that’s a penalty. That’s a penalty to the students, to the teachers and to the parents. That’s a penalty in itself, so that’s no comfort to me.”

 

As advocates, we have much work ahead. It cannot be overstated that our children are depending on us to understand the real threat against them and their schools. Your willingness to take action and hold candidates to protecting our kids, teachers and schools is the key to keeping the “public” in education.

 

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