Peter Greene reports here on a sad tale of education policy in Florida, where stupidity grows faster than citrus fruit.

As you may recall, Florida is one of the states with a third grader retention law, declaring that third graders cannot move on unless they pass the Big Standardized Test for reading. This is a dumb law, without a lick of evidence to support it, and several licks to suggest that it’s actually counter-productive. However, the legislature, in one of its rare lucid moments, opened the door to local districts substituting a portfolio display of reading skills in place of a BS Test score, and sixty-ish Florida county districts walked through that door into a land of sense and clarity.

A few other districts, however, decided to be dopes about the whole thing.

Mind you, I generally try to be semi-respectful here and remember that the people I disagree with are still human beings with families and lives. But what the hell is there to say about a grown adult who declares that an eight year old child must be held back a year, even if that child got straight A’s and demonstrated exemplary reading ability? That grown adult, even if she is a professional superintendent of schools, should be ashamed. She should be ashamed of visiting such abuse on any of her young charges, and she should be ashamed that she has so blatantly announced that she is not really concern3ed about that child’s reading skills at all, but is only interested in forcing that child to comply and take the Holy BS Test. (Or at least “participate,” which in Florida means breaking the seal and signing their names, which at least some of the plaintiffs did.)

But it just got worse. Initially, the state ed department threw the local districts under the bus, saying, “Well, it’s their choice.” But by summer’s end, the education department lawyers were arguing in court that the grades given by teachers on student report cards didn’t really mean anything.

And so about a dozen opt-out students were dragged into the Florida public square to be made an example of. Because nothing makes school superintendents and state lawyers and departments of education feel more validated than putting a beat-down on some third graders.

But just in time for September to roll in, Florida Judge Karen Gievers not only ruled in favor of the opt out kids, but used some pointed-yet-judgely language to point out that the state was acting like a giant asshat.

That should have been the end of things. Properly slapped, education officials should have come to their senses and exclaimed, “Holy smokes! We got so caught up in this we were more concerned in making sure that opt out families obeyed us than finding ways to see if students are really learning.” Instead, some local districts decided to keep being jerks to the children, and the case went back into the next level of court on appeal. “Dare to sue us for the right to advance a grade just because you have straight A’s,” they said. “We will not rest till we can put some hurt on your tiny ten year old frame.” I don’t want to know what the children are going to learn about being a responsible adult from this whole sorry mess.

But now the Appeals Court has weighed in and reversed the decision, declaring that Florida has a compelling state interest in forcing third graders to take and pass the third grade reading test. Even if their test scores were perfect all year, it matters not at all. The test trumps all.

Greene asks:

The ruling, which threw out all of the August court decisions, raises so many questions. Since this buttresses the state argument that report cards don’t matter, does this mean a child who flunks every class but gets satisfactory scores on the BS Test is legally entitled to advance to the next grade? Does this mean that Florida schools should abandon report cards entirely? Will Florida state troopers be sent into the sixty-ish other counties and force them to ignore portfolios and hold test scofflaws back in third grade? Will families with young children avoid these counties like the plague? Has Florida just found one more clever way to undermine public schools and drive families toward charters?