Saturday, August 13, 2016

FL: Attacking Children and Teachers

AP reporter Gary Fineout did yeoman's work yesterday, live tweeting the Florida hearing about the retention, in some districts, of third grade students who passed their courses but didn't take Florida's Big Standardized Test (the FSA). There were many low-lights as the hearing unfolded, but this had to be the lowest:

Yes, that would be the representative of the state's department of education saying that report cards are meaningless.

I'm trying to imagine the wacky good times in faculty meetings and in-service days across Florida next week, as That Person on staff raises their hand and asks the superintendent, "Now that we know the official state policy is that report cards are meaningless, will we just be discontinuing them? Can we replace them with ribbons or maybe give each child a mug that says Good Job?" Does the state's disavowal of report cards mean that teachers no longer have to spend the time to record grades at all-- because that could free up all sorts of time, and allow districts to dump all that costly grade-recording software. Or can teachers just assign grades randomly? Play a little AC-DC?

(Oh, and for those of you who are thinking, "Well, if only the test matters, then why not give the test in September and let every kid who passes it skip the grade," all I can say is, just wait until Competency Based Education hits Florida...)

Especially in the districts like Orange County that are actually pursuing this stupid policy, I hope that teachers stand up, look their superintendent in the eye and ask, "Do you agree with the state that the report cards I fill out for my students are meaningless? Do you agree with the state's contention that the work I do in assessing students is junk and has no value or should carry no weight? Do you agree with the state that my professional judgment as a teacher is worthless?"  And if the superintendent hides in the office (which would be wise because really, how could any self-respecting superintendent face their teaching staff after this bullshit) feel free to send them a copy of this.

But kudos to the state for turning what was merely an attack on children and the rights of their parents into a wholesale attack on the integrity and competence of all teachers in the state. Because if report cards are meaningless, it can only be because all teachers are incompetent boobs. Well played, Florida education department.

The hearing included other lowlights as well. Children and their parents came to testify and all of the district lawyers filed objections-- because if you have to actually look at the children that you're doing this to, the small humans that you are, as the judge put it, "taking hostage," it's a lot harder to justify your brain-dead, abusively stupid policy. You end up looking almost as bad as you should look. Ultimately the children and families did testify.

The judge seems sympathetic and may rule within a week. Meanwhile, state and district school leaders in Florida don't know what the hell they're doing. One district said the FSA is mandatory; another said it isn't. The state department doesn't know what its regulations say. And all of these people are going to grind up some nine-year-olds just to prove that they are too the bosses of everyone in Florida and everyone must comply or else.

But let me leave you with this clip that popped up during the discussion of the hearing yesterday. It'[s video from a meeting of the Keep Florida Learning Committee. In it, a parent objects, pretty politely, to the use of test results to punish students, teachers and schools. Pam Stewart, Florida's education chief, says that, gosh, test results are never used to punish anybody. That is astonishing enough, but stick with it, because then whatever functionary who's recording the discussion on paper asks the parent to rephrase, because "punish" is just so mean and judgy and suggests that the benevolent overlords of the department have ill intent. God forbid that anyone in the department have their feelings hurt.

I hope a few more people are impolite. I hope superintendents and Pam Stewart and the department are inundated with videos from real live nine-year-olds who are being punished for their test non-compliance. I hope teacher challenge them, directly and vocally, on their dismissal of the teachers' ability and professionalism. Mostly I hope this stupid, stupid rule is thrown out. Not just thrown out, but thrown out accompanied by a public tongue-lashing for the terrible, no-good, really bad, awful superintendents and state officials who thought it would be a good idea to make third grade honor students repeat third grade just to prove that parents, teachers and students must bow before and comply with the state.


  1. Education policy is set by the governor through appointees to State School Board. Our legislators vote to pass statutes such as 3rd grade retention. Superintendents could over-ride mandatory retention for those who opted out.

  2. This feels like the type of case which, if taken up as high as possible, even to the Supreme Court, could expose the lack of actual logic in standardized testing.

  3. As my students understood, to get respect, you've got to give it. The flunky who is insisting that he's an arbiter of what's respectful from this parent has his head in a very dark tunnel. The government serves the people, not the other way around.

  4. What a manipulative, mind bend by that guy! The Florida Dept of Ed IS punishing via test, but God forbid people say it? And he doesn't get that controlling this woman's words is bullying her? Who is that guy? Here's 2 words for his behavior: disgusting and manipulative.