Florida: Bill introduced to reduce Common Core mandated testing — But does it?

Florida State Senator John Legg has presented a new bill February 2, 2015 with much fanfare, Education Accountability – SB 616.

Like most other efforts by those who created the problem, this one creates more questions than answers.  His bill attempts to solve the problem of too much testing by simply demanding that schools should limit testing to 5% of the school year while it doesn’t reduce testing requirements by the State.

If schools can only use standardized tests 5% of class time, (9 of 180 days) does that mean just the time they are sitting and filling in the blanks?  Who measures this and tracks it? What about the time they are sitting in their classroom with no teacher while she proctors the makeup tests or retests?  This is what creates most of the 40% estimated lost class time.  We don’t have a computer for every student and the “musical chairs” problem is a huge and expensive complexity!

Who will notify parents when the 5% threshold is reached?  Is that 5% collectively by school, by class, or individually?  If only “permission” is required over 5%, why would parents deny this and under what penalty?  I just saw a “permission” slip in Lee County which penalized parents $15 for a standardized test or $55 for refusing an alternate exam and asked for the student’s phone number as well as parent info and IDs.

This “edict” is no better than just raising the bar and demanding better performance, a strategy they are using for testing overall.  And by the way, most have agreed the tests used to measure success are unreliable at best.

Schools must test because they are mandated to do so in statutes Senator John Legg helped create.  The existing mandated tests fit nicely into the 9 day window if you don’t account for the lack of testing computers, space and proctors, retests and makeup tests, and this would not provide any relief for students, teachers and schools.

Here’s a link to the bill and article about it on Sunshine State News.

This bill prescribes how teachers and schools must be evaluated in detail, removing all local control from local districts and providing unworkable and formulaic measures with no evidence of successful use.  What makes 40% test score weight in teacher evaluation the right number?  Why not 70% or 10% or 50% as it was?  No one has explained or scientifically justified these arbitrary numbers which have high stakes consequences for students and teachers.  The same goes for the 5% number on the amount of time for testing.   Why not 1%, or 10%?

This bill does not mention the main issue for many, and that is the content that is being “taught” to our children does not measure up, and is NOT rigorous, but crippling our children’s future.  Common sense and empirical data shows the children of Florida are being short changed.  We have recently dropped to number 28th in the Nation as shown by the ACT scores.  Our scores were better in 1995 than they are today, yet we are constantly being fed misleading statistics on “student growth” showing otherwise.  The tortured use of made up measures is just unseemly to disguise the fact that Florida’s vaunted education system is a massive failure.

The underlying question is why the Legislature micromanages the education process at all when nearly all of them have no teaching expertise?  We can use “off the shelf” Nationally Normed tests to measure how our students compare and save billions in the process.   Using pencil and paper tests equalizes the districts and eliminates the musical chair complexity, costs and fears of computer failures.   No explanation has ever been provided as to why pencil and paper tests should be replaced by computer only testing.  Why not let certified teachers teach and accredited schools monitor the teachers?

The answer is simple, POWER AND MONEY.

Billions must be spent to purchase, maintain and upgrade computers, software and networks to prepare for computer testing.  No estimate has been provided to the taxpayers and voters of Florida, but judging by the pilot project in Orange County reported Feb 18, 2104 at the State Board of Education meeting, this cost was estimated at over $2 Billion by Chair, Gary Chartran.

We do know, however, that the companies promoting this, Pearson, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, GE and others are the selfsame companies which receive this money.  They are also making large donations to the politicians who push for computerized testing and Common Core.  The Superintendents Association and State School Boards Association both list the same group of supporting corporate cronies who are benefactors in this incestuous scheme.  Here are links:  Gary Chartran and the KIPP Schools, Florida School Boards Association,  and the Florida Superintendents Association.

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