Meetings of The Greater Consortium of Florida School Boards are not usually big news, but this meeting, Friday September 19, in West Palm Beach, Florida was an exception as parents have become a volcano of discontent and school board members are rising to address their concerns. The Consortium is eleven school boards which team together for the purpose of lobbying the state government. Forty two percent of the K-12 children in Florida attend their schools.
In fact, many school board meetings are now the “hot” places to be as pressure mounts against the maniacal testing demands which come with Common Core. News this week included hundreds of new tests to be administered, costing each district millions and crowding out precious learning time. It is estimated that over 40% of class time is already spent on testing alone. Schools have gone so far as to end recess in K-6 so that more time can be spent testing.
Eruptions have occurred in local school board meetings all around the state. In Lee County, there was a vote to “Opt out” of state mandated tests altogether. Hundreds of parents jammed into the board meeting wearing red in solidarity and gave passionate testimony about the disastrous effects of Common Core and high stakes testing.
Now, the rebellion has swelled and the Consortium voted unanimously to include a main plank in their legislative agenda to “suspend high stakes testing.” This will be confirmed by a vote in each school district and will be used as a lobbying platform.
The move was stunning as all districts must agree on issues in the platform which usually results in only non-controversial proposals, not bold statements. But big problems require bold action.
The state, itself, has admitted there are many problems with the deliver and administering of tests. Just last week the Florida DOE ended the K-2 “FAIR” test.
What is “high stakes” testing? Why the aversion to tests? Isn’t “accountability” important?
In the “old days” when schools worked, certified teachers taught in accredited schools and the teachers gave final exams and evaluated the body of student work to produce a grade which was entered in the report card. Students were accountable for their results.
Since 1994, criticism of results led some legislators to say “Let’s raise the bar.” Let’s impose “higher standards” and base teacher pay and tenure on student results. This is “outcome based education.” And this was a big mistake which got bigger as time went on.
The federal government passed No Child Left Behind in 2002. This required tests to show ALL students would progress at a certain rate, or schools would be taken over. Teachers would be paid and fired on results. This led to frustration, teaching only to the test, and widespread cheating scandals.
Of course, accountability for one’s actions is important. But we should not be accountable for results we do not control. That is what we have done to teachers and schools. Lessons are scripted and teachers are not allowed to slow down or speed up as their lessons are “paced.” Bright students get bored and those who don’t catch on right away are left behind.
The state dictates the standards and curriculum must match because pay and even their jobs depend on getting good results on tests the state mandates. Students are not measured on a body of work, but can have life changing decisions made for them on the basis of a single test. Third graders are held back a year, and high schoolers must pass one test in order to graduate. State mandated End of Course (EOC) exams count for 30% of the yearly grade in core subjects.
We should also not be rewarded and punished using unattainable goals as in “No Child Left Behind.” Here’s a simple example: I can reward someone five feet tall millions of dollars to beat a seven fool tall NBA player at basketball and it is nearly impossible for him to attain that goal no matter how hard he tries. I can punish him when he fails, and there is no positive result from either to the shorter player. There would be an enormous negative effect, deflating the ego of the player and discouraging him from trying at all.
Realizing all of this, and examining the disastrous empirical results, we must support the bold move supported by the Greater Consortium of Florida’s School Boards, and press the Governor and Legislators to stop this unworkable, unwise, and unaffordable method of meaningless measurement.
Unwinding the bloated bureaucracy in which corporate cronies such as Pearson PLC, Bill Gates and Jeb Bush have benefitted massively, won’t be easy. But we must free our children of the tests which line their pockets and steal nearly half of their class time for learning.
It is OUR responsibility to raise our children, not the village, not the state, and certainly not Washington DC.
We, the People, must take back our parental rights and demand that the schools, our state, and our nation remember they serve at the CONSENT of the Governed, not the GOVERNOR.
We must be free to teach the truth and America will once again be that Shining City on the Hill where American Exceptionalism is common…
Not Common Core.