Archives for category: Florida

Last week, the Lee County, Florida, school board voted 3-2 to opt out of state testing. Over the past few days, one member of the three-vote majority declared that she wanted to change her vote. A meeting was called for 8:30 a.m. This morning, a time that was sure to be inconvenient for parents and teachers.

A message to me from Bob Schaeffer of Fairtest, who lives in Lee County:

“As expected, given the notion that one member had reversed her position, the Lee County School Board just voted 3-2 to override its previous decision. However, four of the five board members spoke out against “test misuse and overuse” as well as “the punitive use of standardized exams.” The two Board members who opposed the original motion (allegedly due to the lack of an implementation plan) pledged to take their concerns to a meeting of the Florida School Boards Association, which is holding a statewide conference beginning tonight, and one threatened a lawsuit against unfunded state testing mandates. After the vote, several Board members said that there would be a public workshop next week to discuss how to move forward to reduce testing overkill, and two members pledged that they would make implementation motions at the Tuesday night, September 9 regular Board meeting.

“The hundreds of parents, teaches, students and taxpayers who packed the room viewed the decision as a temporary tactical setback, not a long-term defeat, for the assessment reform movement.”

Can you believe this?

Out of the 180-day academic year, Miami-Dade County schools will administer standardized tests on every day but eight.”

“Though not every student will take every test, the number and consequences of testing are facing a growing backlash from parents, teachers and even some district officials…..

The Miami Dade School Board on Wednesday will approve its assessment schedule for the next school year — a calendar with dozens of different exams that start at preschool and even eat into summer vacation….”

““Florida has gone test-crazy. Whatever you may think about the value of some standardized testing, it’s clear we have gone way overboard. And the reaction that we’re seeing . . . is people saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, an organization that opposes what it sees as the misuse of standardized tests….”

“Miami-Dade’s testing calendar includes 18 exams required exclusively by the state, two by the federal government and five by the district. An additional 21 assessments are mandatory under a mix of district, state and federal guidelines, or are standard for getting into college — or for getting credit for advanced-curriculum studies. Those are in addition to any classroom tests an individual teacher may give.

Miami-Dade’s chief academic officer acknowledged the calendar can look alarming at first glance, but highlighted that 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.”

Read more here:

Ken Previti explains Governor Rick Scott’s Dilemma: he wants to denounce Obama and disassociate from the Common Core, but he wants to keep everything about the Common Core because his mento Jeb Bush loves it.

So what does he do? He rebrands Common Core and calls it something else. But everything remains “aligned” with Common Core.

To avoid offending my sensibilities, Ken referred to “poo-poo” rather than use that familiar four-letter word, which is derived from Old English and Middle English.

The Lee County school board will meet tomorrow at 8:30 am, a time that will exclude many parents, students, and educators. Public meetings should be scheduled when the public is not at work or in class.

This letter was written by a parent and teacher who can’t attend the meeting because she will be working. It is a plea to the board not to back down.

Regarding Lee County School Board decision to opt out of high stakes, state tests:

I am the parent of a fifth grader in Lee County. I am also an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for the district.

During public comments at the Wednesday night’s Lee County School Board Meeting, a speaker said, “Seize the day.” I agree.

We have waited long for this day. We have fought long and hard to end the over testing of our kids. This was not a rushed decision. Parents from every walk of life, every political group, have been going to school board meetings for years.

Two years ago, Lee County School Board was one of the first in the nation to sign onto a resolution opposing high stakes testing. Mrs. Dozier, among others, carried the resolution to our state school board and fought for its passing. She was successful and we thank her. Our parent groups, locally and statewide, have tried with our representatives and senators. We have lobbied, written emails, called, tweeted, even created meme … with no response.

I myself traveled to the Network for Public Education National Conference. I was there when Diane Ravitch called for congressional hearings. We have tried. But, our leaders in Tallahassee and DC. refuse to listen.

So now it is our time to refuse. It is our obligation as parents and caretakers to refuse these toxic tests. The is no more time to wait. It is time to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Lee County School Board and Superintendent Graham, we are here to support you as you do what is right for our children. We are here to say we need you. You are our hard hitters. We elected you. You are our last line of defense in defending our children and it is your moral imperative to do so.

You made the decision to opt us out of state high stakes assessments. That was the right choice. Now, let’s get proactive in creating a program of portfolio assessments. Let’s outline the possibilities of using concordant scores.

Let’s give our Lee County families and employees a sense of hope not gloom. The whole world is watching. Here is your chance to be world class.

After all, it is what the parents want. Ask them, most will tell you they were planning to opt out anyway. Why make it be our parents and our children who have to take a stand. Why force an opting out child to sit, humiliated, through a five hour test, day after day, during test month? Let’s stand up for them.

So, no more waiting, please. No more waffling back and forth wondering. No more hoping someone else will fix this. Let’s find a way. No amount of money is worth this. Our children are not numbers and education is not about property values. This is not about ‘Flipping Lee’… This is about the kids. Focus on our kids.

Bonnie Cunard Margolin, parent & teacher, Wear Red for Ed

Mark J. Castellano, president of the Lee County Teachers Association, explains in this post that the Lee County school board defended a love of learning when it took a stand against the testing frenzy that has engulfed our schools.

He writes:

“Our state and our nation have become obsessed with standardized testing of students in public schools. Obsessed to the point it has changed what our public schools should be: strongholds of learning.

“Schools are places where children are meant to learn that reading, writing, math, science, music, art, and all fields of study are valued. These are the roads they can safely travel to achieve what they dream of becoming, of doing. They should be able to discover the outlet that will allow them to become more than “productive citizens,” but people with a passion, and contributors to our communities, our nation, and our world.

“Yet, over the past 15 years, a dangerous hijacking of public education has taken place. Some of the catchphrases used to justify this are “accountability,” “failing schools,” “school choice,” “fire the ‘bad teachers’,” “the teachers unions,” ad nauseum. In reality, these have all misleadingly been used to promote one ultimate agenda: privatization of public education.

“The most egregious of the tactics that has been used is the testing mania crammed down the throats of public schools, and thus, public school students. Teachers are critical of this mania because it provides minimal to no useful feedback regarding the teaching and learning in their classes. Testing is supposed to be a diagnostic exercise — not an evaluation of the teacher, but an evaluation of what a student has learned. It is meant to be used by the teacher to determine strengths and deficiencies in a student’s understanding. It is to be a guide to what the teacher can and must do to help each student grasp the knowledge they need in whatever subject is taught. Educationally, testing was never meant to be a hammer held over the heads of students, teachers, and school districts.

“Yet, in regards to the consequences of what may happen if we dare to refuse the continued abusive misuse of testing, they have not clearly identified what the nail will be. I can only assume they feel that no one would dare challenge their dictates, so there was no need to be specific with the consequences. All we know is that if a school district or board is unwilling to comply with laws mandating the implementation of high stakes testing, the State Board of Education has the authority to withhold funding for that district. Ah, that’s the nail! No funding, no ability to operate a school system. If this occurred they would undoubtedly use it as an excuse to cry for further privatization….

“The Lee County School Board has taken the first real public stance by voting to “opt out” of the mandatory testing our Legislature requires. Other school boards around the state are now looking towards Lee County and beginning the conversation in their district. If more of them stand up and declare “ENOUGH!”, maybe our legislators and governor will realize that public schools should be permitted to fulfill their true purpose: give our children the gift of a love of learning, a desire for knowledge, and a purpose for offering their skills, whatever those may be, to better their lives and our world.

“The school board has chosen to take this strong stand and we applaud their efforts. We will proceed cautiously to ensure that teachers and students are not harmed, but we are prepared to tell our legislators and governor, “You WILL NOT punish our students and our education professionals to further YOUR agenda! You WILL adequately fund our schools, as our state’s constitution demands of you! You WILL stop the abusive misuse of high-stakes testing!”

If teachers had turned out to vote–teacher Justin Katz would have been in the runoff for the Palm Beach County school board. He lost by 54 votes of 15,400 votes cast.

Teacher Joshua Katz lost in Orange County by 67 votes out of 14,500 cast.

The moral of the story: if you want change, get out and vote!

Last week, the Lee County, Florida, school board voted 3-2 to remove the district from state testing. Some members want to reconsider. They have scheduled a meeting at a time when students, parents, and teachers are likely to be unavailable.

Bob Schaeffer of Fartest issued the following statement:

for immediate release Friday, August 29, 2014

As a 15-year resident of Lee County, I have closely followed the Lee School Board’s debate about standardized testing misuse and overuse, testified at recent public hearings on the topic, ready Attorney Martin’s memo and communicated directly with School Board members.

The Lee School Board has the right to reconsider its vote to “opt out” of state-mandated testing. But the decision to schedule a special meeting at 8:30am on a weekday — when working Lee County public school parents, district educators, and students cannot attend is outrageous. Those are the stakeholders most directly impacted by the decision.

This important session must be rescheduled to a date and time when more members of these constituencies can participate in the democratic process.

The massive public relations campaign promoting worst-case scenarios and hypothetical “doomsday” penalties from the state ignore the damage being done to Lee County children by continued compliance with standardized exam misuse and overuse mandates.

Precipitous action to reverse the Board’s vote is not justified. Lee students do not face any immediate risk. It would make better sense to see what other districts do (for example, Palm Beach is considering a resolution similar to Lee’s) and how the state responds.

Rather than rescind the August 27 vote, a more measured approach would be to establish a committee of administrators, educators, parents and assessment experts to assess testing policies and propose a measured action plan to implement the goal adopted by the Board.

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
4163 Dingman Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468

Does Palm Beach County, Florida, have the nerve to follow the example set by Lee County, Florida, which voted last week to opt the entire district out of state testing?

The Palm Beach County school board is weighing that decision, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

“Palm Beach County School Board members want to opt out of state-required testing, a controversial move that could jeopardize funding, athletics and students’ ability to graduate.

“They say testing has gotten out of control and creates too much pressure for students and teachers. After discussing the opt-out idea at a recent meeting, board members asked their lawyers for further study. They will discuss it again at a workshop in the next few weeks.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” School Board member Karen Brill said. “We must explore the consequences, but we cannot allow fear to hold us back.”

“Last week, the Lee County school board became the first district in the Florda to opt out, after hundreds of parents pushed them to do so.

“But Joe Follick, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Education, said opting out would create chaos. The tests help determine a school’s letter grade and can affect school enrollment, teacher pay and even the prices of homes.

“There’s no way to know how you’re doing if you don’t take a test every year,” he said.”

The state warned that it could suspend funding to punish the district.

Imagine, as John Lennon sang. Imagine if many districts opted out. Imagine if most districts opted out. Imagine if every district opted out. Maybe then the state bureaucrats would remember that they work for the public, not the other way around. Maybe then the legislators would listen to their constituents.

Imagine schools where children were tested every three or four years, at transition points, as in the world’s top-performing nations. Imagine schools where teachers wrote their own tests and used their professional judgment. Imagine schools that did not insist on giving tests to children in hospice care.


Valerie Strauss describes what happened in Lee County last night when the school board voted 3-2 to opt out of state testing, and she reviews what the state might do in response.

She writes:

“The pushback from Lee County — the ninth-largest district in the state and the 37th largest in the country, with more than 85,000 students – is striking in a state that has been at the forefront of standardized test-based “accountability” systems that use student test scores to evaluate not only kids but their teachers, principals, schools and districts. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush was a pioneer in test-based accountability and he continues to support it around the country, even amid a growing revolt around the country by parents and educators against test-based school reform, which has led to narrowed curriculum, obsessive test preparation and other negative consequences. Reformers have insisted that test scores are a legitimate high-stakes evaluation tool, even though assessment experts have repeatedly said otherwise.

“The Lee County school board voted to opt public schools out of all state-mandated testing. That includes standardized tests that will assess the new Sunshine State Standards, which were “adopted” after Florida pulled out of the Common Core and set forth new standards that were very similar. According to Armstrong, the boycott also includes state-mandated end-of-course exams, which are supposed to be given starting this year in every course that does not have a standardized test attached to it. The end-of-course exams, however, can be locally designed, do not have to be standardized computer or paper-and-pencil tests and can include a range of options.

“Asked what the state Department of Education could do to the county for taking this position, he said Florida could withhold state funds from the country and take other action, including removing a member from the board. A summary of possible consequences for the county, issued by the county’s school district attorney, included a number of other potential consequences, including the possibility that high school students could not complete state requirements to graduate. You can see the entire list here.”

Lee County, Florida, made history tonight. Despite threats from state officials that they might cut funding, the school board voted to opt the entire district out of state testing.

“The school board has voted to opt out the entire district from all statewide, standardized testing – effective immediately. The decision was received with overwhelming cheers and applause in the packed auditorium.

“The motion passed three to two, with board members Don Armstrong, Tom Scott and Mary Fischer in support of the vote.

“Board members Jeanne Dozier and Cathleen Morgan said they would prefer the district wait until an alternative plan is in place. Superintendent Nancy Graham warned the district that the abrupt decision could be harmful to students.

“There is an unmistakable emotion in the room tonight at the Lee school board meeting as the board deliberates a motion to opt out from all statewide tests.

“The standing-room only audience cheered and booed as more than 33 concerned citizens took the podium to speak their thoughts on the possibility of the district opting out of standardized tests. The audience was filled with protestors wearing red “#boycott shirts.”

“The flood of red represented various activist groups in Lee County, including Teaching Not Testing, Florida Citizens’ Alliance and the Libertarian Party of Florida.

“Because 33 people requested to give public comment tonight, each speaker only has one minute to voice their thoughts.

“Chairman Tom Scott reminded the audience that school board policy prohibits booing, cheering and clapping. The audience, at times, could not help itself as citizens gave impassioned one-minute speeches.

“Emotions came to a head when mother Lori Jenkins took the stand. She said her son has a terminal heart condition and was at home on a leave from school, yet the district still sent someone to proctor his exam at his home on his deathbed. The audience gasped with disgust.

“He’s terminal, he’s going to die, but he goes to school! He does the stupid remedial classes!” Jenkins yelled. The audio was cut off when she hit her one-minute limit. She continued to yell into the mic as the audience called for the board to let her speak. Jenkins received a standing ovation.


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