On Wednesday, August 27, 2014 the Lee County School Board voted no more State mandated testing. It was 3/2 and the most exciting evening our district has had, EVER. There were over 400 people, most with red shirts showing support, crowded into the board chambers. We had a tailgate party planned, but so much media came that we just talked with media. Groups came from left, right and center. This was not about party, it was about our kids. There were about 40 speakers, some in tears, some children, some made us laugh, and all made the logical request: NO MORE STATE MANDATED TESTING. Teachers are certified, schools are accredited and they know how to grade and test their students without State micromanagers meddling and adding costs and taking up to 60% of class time away from learning.
No one left for hours while the Board debated. The Chair, Thomas Scott made the motion. Don Armstrong made the second. Both said words we were longing to hear. Jeannie Dozier was on speaker phone and we expected her to support, but instead she offered an amendment kicking the decision down the road until we have a “plan.” We all knew what that meant and the crowd responded. Cathleen Morgan seconded her motion and our hearts sank. The amendment discussion opened the door for our Superintendent, Nancy Graham who talked seemingly forever about the boogie man of potential sanctions by the state. Children will be dying in the street! We have no plan and teachers will be lost and won’t know what to do without those tests that grade their performance!
They asked Nancy what date they could expect a plan. She suggested late October and crowd groaned audibly in spite of being reprimanded for noise several times already. Their children can’t wait. Every day in this testing torture puts the children further behind.
Mary Fisher was the wild card. We expected her to support us, but she cowered to the delay and fear tactics of our Superintendent. She droned on and on about how we must not have a knee jerk reaction and must be responsible. We saw her siding with the delay motion and felt like all was lost, when suddenly, she told a story about her own family and how they were negatively affected by test results. She was back.
They voted on the amendment and it died, 3/2. More talk by our star of the night, Don Armstrong, and the supporting actor, Thomas Scott, talking about our Constitution and the role of civil disobedience. Don quoted many of our emails filled support. Tom talked about the fact that the State is already in violation of the state Constitution on the issue of class size. He has send them a bill for over $120,000,000 for the costs they promised to pay. Don chided they need to send that to us in cash. Yes, they even talked about the founding of our nation and the Boston Tea Party. They obviously had not read our Common Core history books.
The vote was called and everyone was holding their breath. Tom, Don and Mary voted for the motion, while Superintendent Nancy Graham and Cathleen Morgan grew pale and distraught. The crowd jumped to its feet cheering and clapping in disbelief. Did we actually hear what we heard? YES! It has begun.
I am eternally grateful for the many groups and individuals who made this happen. We are hoping other school districts in Florida and across the nation will be part of a chain of dominos that will show we CAN stand up to the powerful machine standing against us and our children.
Public comments on standardized testing at the Lee County School Board:
EDITORS NOTE: The issues this vote raises include:
- What will Governor Rick Scott do? Governor Scott has called for an independent committee to look at the Florida (Common Core) tests and standards.
- What will the Florida Department of Education do given its commitment to implement Common Core statewide?
- What are the legal ramifications of this district opting out? Emily Atteberry from NewsPress.com reports, “Keith Martin, the [Lee County] board’s attorney, was not sure that there were any ‘immediate, clear’ consequences to the action. He said it was possible the Governor could remove the school board members from their positions of power.”
- What will the district use to replace the current tests? Atteberry reports, “While the news was met with jubilation, Superintendent Nancy Graham said she was deeply concerned about the board’s decision. “This will hurt children. There is no way around it,” Graham said while the audience booed. “I am gravely concerned about the decision that was made tonight, and I’ll try to make sense of this. It’s an interesting time to serve as the leader of this district.”
Education has become a defining issue for parents, concerned citizens, teachers and administrators. Governor Rick Scott and former Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist have differing views on Common Core. How Governor Scott deals with this growing grass roots movement to chip away at Common Core in Florida can be a defining factor and determine the outcome of the election in November.