Florida accountability laws need ‘total rewrite,’ Pasco superintendent says

KURT BROWNING PASCO COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT

by: Jeffrey S. Solochek|Tampa Bay Times
September 18, 2015

Florida’s education accountability system has lost credibility among too many Floridians to remain effective as-is, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning said Friday.

Without changes, “I think it’s just going to get worse,” said Browning, the only superintendent to attend the state Senate Education Committee’s Thursday hearing on testing.

“Whether real or perceived, school administrators, district school leaders and, more important, parents and students are not going to have any trust in this assessment system until these issues are fully vetted,” Browning told the Gradebook. “The political reality of it is, until people trust the process, until people trust the assessment, we’re going to keep having these issues.”

He noted a growing number of parents attending local school board meetings, as well as speaking out via social media, who are upset and disdainful of the system, its high stakes and the test that under-girds it.

“Nothing short of a total rewrite of education accountability is going to fix this,” Browning said.

He’s instructed his staff to prepare materials for families telling them not to put much credence into the Florida Standards Assessments scores and school grades this year, particularly in light of a recent validity study that raised many questions about the test’s reliability. The study’s authors acknowledged Thursday that one could read their report and determine it inappropriate to use the results for most consequences.

Education commissioner Pam Stewart has remained steadfast that all is well. Browning was dumbfounded by her stance.

“The department has said, ‘Everything is good in assessment land,'” he said. “We’re saying, ‘No, it’s not.'”

While he talks critically about the system, though, Browning remains unwilling to take the steps that growing numbers of parents have urged, such as ignoring the state tests and supporting opt-out efforts. He worried that such a move would violate state testing law, which requires public school student participation, and he’d be removed by Gov. Rick Scott as a result.

“These people are serious,” said Browning, a former secretary of state in the Scott administration.

Rather, he said he would try to work within the existing legal framework to push for changes. “We will continue to try to find solutions to this problem before it gets any more out of kilter.

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