This week education in Florida made the national news! As a Florida resident, one becomes keenly aware that if we are in the national headlines, it’s because of the bizarro factor (Florida news stories usually involve a large reptile attacking someone, naked Zombie face eaters or an election fiasco). To be fair, the first national education news story was positive when the Lee County School Board (briefly) voted to Opt Out of State Standardized testing. That decision lasted all of one weekend, when the School Board decided to have a revote at 8:30 in the morning when they knew parents and teachers could not attend.

Hoping to capture some national attention as well, the Miami Herald finally published an article that did not glorify Miami Dade public schools but exposed one horrific testing schedule instead claiming, “Out of the 180-day academic year, Miami-Dade County schools will administer standardized tests on every day but eight.”

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/01/4322452/in-miami-dade-schools-testing.html

To be fair, that is a little bit of an exaggeration, as Miami Dade Chief Academic Officer pointed out, “no single student sits for every exam listed. For example, a high school senior won’t take the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener, just as a kindergartener won’t take the Advanced Placement exams for college credit.” Thanks for that clarification. I guess statements like these are why district officials get paid the big bucks.

Never one to miss an opportunity to get his picture and name in the paper, our Superintendent captured the Zeitgeist of the anti-testing movement by publishing an opinion piece in the Miami Herald asking for common sense testing.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/02/4323758/carvalho-common-sense-on-student.html

Only like most politicians, he was for standardized testing before he was against it. Three years ago he was boasting about winning Races that tied teacher evaluations to student test scores and would ultimately require End of Course exams for every class in the state of Florida, primarily used to rank and rate teachers. Now that the proverbial poo-poo has hit the fan and the public is turning against this absurdity, our Superintendent has finally reversed course, “Tying inconclusive and statistically unreliable achievement data to teacher evaluation and performance pay scales based on learning gains or Value-Added Models, when those very same gains that are indispensable to the model are nonexistent, is questionable at best and unethical at worst.”

Kudos to you Mr. Superintendent for officially stating what most teachers in your district have been complaining about for the last three years. Maybe you always believed that VAM was a scam and you just wanted to get some Federal dollars for your school district. Now that the grant period is over and the district if facing wasting millions in creating and administering hundreds of new EOCs, you have finally seen the light and feel comfortable coming out of the VAM closet.

If any readers have the time, they can check out an Orange County powerpoint about Florida’s new accountability system

https://www.ocps.net/Documents/2014-15%20Documents/2014%20State%20Accountability%20Work%20Session.pdf.

Here is one of the hidden gems in case you’re too busy to read it:

“For all other statewide, national and state‐required, locally constructed assessments, the district must create methods for measuring student learning growth

  • There are over 1,000 courses that fall in these groups

It is important to note that the majority of teachers will receive their student learning growth entirely constructed by the district.”

One method districts are using to cut back on the number of new assessments they are being forced to create just so they can evaluate their teachers, is simply cutting back on the number of courses they offer. Great elective courses are being sliced from the curriculum just so districts will not have to create another test. In my county, the EOCs are still under construction so our evaluations will be tied to a test that we have no idea how to prepare for. Not to mention that districts are supposed to measuring learning gains for a test that students have never taken. As far as I am aware, there are no plans to administer a baseline assessment this year. What data are they going to use to measure growth?

Before I start losing anymore sleep over this nonsense, let us all hope that this all gets thrown out after the election this November. For too long, our state’s education policies have been guided by Jeb Bush’s self interests. Schools have become so obsessed over our state’s grading system that my daughter’s “A+” elementary school doesn’t even offer art or music classes.

In Texas, another state that has also been dominated by the Bush family testing industrial complex, the public is increasingly becoming fed up with the misuse and abuse of standardized testing. Walter Stroup, a TENURED Harvard educated professor at the University Texas, testified at the Texas Capitol that “The tests, simply couldn’t measure how much students had learned in school.”

 

Of course for classroom teachers, this was a matter of stating the obvious. But coming from a college professor who came armed with years of research, it carried more weight:

“Using UT’s computing power, Stroup investigated. He entered the state test scores for every child in Texas, and out came the same minor variances he had gotten in Dallas. What he noticed was that most students’ test scores remained the same no matter what grade the students were in, or what subject was being tested. According to Stroup’s initial calculations, that constancy accounted for about 72 percent of everyone’s test score. Regardless of a teacher’s experience or training, class size, or any other classroom-based factor Stroup could identify, student test scores changed within a relatively narrow window of about 10 to 15 percent.

Stroup knew from his experience teaching impoverished students in inner-city Boston, Mexico City and North Texas that students could improve their mastery of a subject by more than 15 percent in a school year, but the tests couldn’t measure that change. Stroup came to believe that the biggest portion of the test scores that hardly changed—that 72 percent—simply measured test-taking ability. For almost $100 million a year, Texas taxpayers were sold these tests as a gauge of whether schools are doing a good job. Lawmakers were using the wrong tool.

The paradox of Texas’ grand experiment with standardized testing is that the tests are working exactly as designed from a psychometric (the term for the science of testing) perspective, but their results don’t show what policymakers think they show. Stroup concluded that the tests were 72 percent “insensitive to instruction,” a graduate- school way of saying that the tests don’t measure what students learn in the classroom.”

http://www.texasobserver.org/walter-stroup-standardized-testing-pearson/

For his hard work, Stroup was rewarded with a “needs improvement” evaluation from the University of Texas College of Education (which happens to be funded by a generous grant from the Pearson Foundation). The reformers only value data if it can be used to punish teachers, students, and public schools. Data that actually exposes their fraud gets an automatic “unsatisfactory” rating.

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