Tuesday, July 18, 2017

FL: Third Grade Readers Lose

And another sad chapter in the Floridian assault on education comes to a sad close.

We've been following this story for a while. Florida has a third grade reading test requirement-- Florida's third graders must show they can score high enough on the state Big Standardized Test, no matter what else they've done. Florida's "Just Read, Florida" (because the way to get students to read is to just insist they do it) is like many versions of this bad idea, and last May, a handful of families put it to the test (with the stubborn assistance of their county school systems-- not all Florida counties chose to be part of this exercise in idiocy).

Some children opted out of the Big Standardized Test, so their school district declared that despite the fact that some of those children had exemplary report cards, they would be denied advancement to fourth grade. By the end of the summer, the whole sorry mess as in court. That case was gobsmacking in its wrongheadedness, including the moment in which the state argued that teacher-issued grades were meaningless.

But by the end of the summer, sense and decency had prevailed and the state's rule was not only set aside, but subject to some scolding. The parent goals were commendable:

The goal is to have the statute, which allows third grade retention, found unconstitutional and unenforceable. The implications of a positive outcome from this case are significant and far-reaching.

It didn't matter. In September some of the school districts chose to ignore the court ruling, and took it all to the court of appeals.

The court of appeals ruled in favor of stupid, in fact opening the door to some novel legal; actions by declaring

The purpose of the state test is to “assess whether the student has a reading deficiency and needs additional reading instruction before [and after] being promoted to fourth grade".

The test can only achieve that laudable purpose if the student meaningfully takes part in the test by attempting to answer all of its questions to the best of the student’s ability. Anything less is a disservice to the student — and the public.

So, I guess, eight year olds in Florida can be arrested for not trying hard enough on the BS Test. Also, good to know that the court of appeals has such expertise in reading education that they know the difference between a laudable policy and a stupid one.

The group of parents fighting this case decided to take their last shot by appealing to the state supreme court. That attempt is now done, and the results are not good. The state supreme court has chosen not to hear the case. The ruling seems to be based on the notion that the suit was filed in the wrong court. So that sucks.

What sucks more is that the final outcome maintains Florida's power to flunk any third grader who refuses to take the test, regardless of any other academic indicators. In fact, the whole mess of a ruling would seem to suggest that Florida intends to ignore the part of ESSA that explicitly recognizes parental rights to opt out.

The parents stuck their necks out for this-- the process of appealing has cost about $80K in legal fees and their gofundme is short of halfway there. If you'd like to thank them for making the effort, you can still go chip in to cover some of these costs. There's not a lot to take comfort from here-- the state of Florida grows bad education policy like it grows oranges, and this one has survived the legal challenge. The best thing we can say about the whole business is that the state had to explicitly declare that it doesn't believe in the grades on report cards and that it values test-taking compliance above all else AND that it fully intends to ignore the opt-out portion of ESSA. So the face of education policy continues to be ugly, but at least they were required to show it without any mask or make-up.


  1. My daughter is one of the children involved in this lawsuit and was evaluated over the summer as reading on a 10th grade level. The whole process has taken a huge toll, both emotionally and financially, on my family. Not wanting our daughter to have to sit through another year of 3rd grade, we decided to homeschool. We didn't have the money for private school. My daughter has felt isolated and become an emotional mess over the past year and has been seeing a counselor. But with the evaluation by a certified teacher that shows her reading level, it should be obvious there was no reason to hold her back. The county just wanted to prove they were in control and bully a 4th grader. Otherwise their whole scheme falls apart. Thankfully, I am able to put all of my kids into a private school this year that uses the SAT, and my opt outer will be attending the 5th grade. As long as I have the resources, I will not have my children step foot in a Florida public school ever again. However, the financial carnage is a burden to all of the parents involved. I hope people will help us even though we lost. Because what we did was for all Florida children, not just our own. And there are a lot of parents out there that feel just as strongly as us and didn't participate in the lawsuit for personal reasons. If every parent that was frustrated over this ridiculous, meaningless, test donated just $1 or $5 to our GoFundMe, it would go a long way to helping us put this mess in the rear view mirror. Losing is a very lonely feeling... I'm hoping the good people of Florida will remind us we are not alone.

    1. You are not alone. (I am a Florida teacher.)

    2. This retired teacher is still with you.

  2. We didn't lose because our case was flawed. We lost because the counties CHOSE to fight us on venue. They paid lip service to parents saying, it's a flawed system we agree but we have to follow the law. When we provided opportunity to challenge the system they claimed to disapprove of they CHOSE to stand against us--- not with us.

  3. Slightly off topic ...

    I just found a really great education story out of Florida --- the state that Trump, Secretary Devos, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, and countless others claim has the nation's most successfully *"reformed"* educational system.

    (As I recall, Meg Whitman, current California Governor Brown's right-wing Republican opponent in 2010, was asked about her plans for education, should she win. Back during the 2010 campaign, she said:,

    "We're going to do everything that they're doing now in Florida. That state's system will be our role model."*

    Uh huh. I bet you would have.)

    Here's that new Florida story:


    Apparently, having a lengthy criminal record that includes multiple convictions / prison sentences for arson(!!!), grand theft, and check fraud couldn't stop Lori Bergeron from ascending to the presidency of a prominent charter school board in Bradenton, Florida.

    Alas, Bergeron's life on the straight-and-narrow in Florida's school choice Utopia didn't last long, as she was recently caught --- and convicted of --- robbing and embezzling the charter school blind. She did so through her writing of checks to herself out of the school's bank account.

    She plead guilty after the police executed a court-approved taping of her phone conversations, where she gloated and blabbed away about all that she had gotten away with (or rather, THOUGHT that she had).

    Back to the joint for YOU, Sweetheart!

    Gee, with an extensive rap sheet such as hers, who would have EVER predicted that --- after being placed in the presidency of a charter school board, with full authority to write checks from the school's bank account as she pleased --- she would EVER do such a larcenous thing? You know... stealing from children's education and all that.

    People down there are shocked ... JUST SHOCKED at what has happened.

    Maybe it's time for Florida's leaders to enact legislation to better regulate its charters, one that includes some minimum standards or mandatory qualifications for Florida's charter school operators and board members.

    Hmmm... let's see. How would that look?

    Let's give it a whack, now, shall we?
    *Department of Public Instruction*

    *Mandatory Criteria For All Prospective Charter School
    Executives / Board Members*:

    Regulation No. 1) *Must NEVER have served time for Arson.*

    Regulation No. 2) ...

  4. Standards are low in education generally. So sad.