Thursday, August 11, 2016

FL: Test Fetish on Trial

You may recall that last spring, some school district officials in Florida lost their damn minds.

Florida's test fetish became so advanced, so completely divorced from any understanding of the actual mission of schools and education and, hell, behaving like a grown human adult with responsibility for looking after children, that some district leaders interpreted state law to mean that a student who had opted out of the Big Standardized test could not be passed on to the next grade-- even if that student had a straight A report card.

Yes, I'm going to explain that again because it's so completely senseless that you might think it's just another bad typo on this blog.

Meet Chris. Chris was a third grader last year. According to Chris's report card, Chris earned passing grades in every single class. But Chris's parents said that Chris would not be taking the state test. Now Chris must repeat third grade.

Last spring some Florida education leaders took some heat over this, which is only fair because this is a decision that can only be taken as evidence that the adults in question should never be given responsibility over children ever, ever again. Gah! Look, in the world of education there are many debatable issues, many points on which I can see the other side's point of view even as I disagree vehemently with it. But what possible justification can there be for this? What possible purpose is served by forcing an otherwise successful eight year old to repeat a grade simply because that child's parents refused to comply with the state's demand to take a test? Florida has gone to the trouble of creating rules about what constitutes "participation" which it then can't explain. It is almost-- almost-- as if state education officials are mostly and only concerned that the test manufacturers have an uninterrupted revenue stream. They certainly don't give a tinker's damn about education.

On top of all that, Florida has rules in place for alternative assessments, but some edublockheads decided that those rules only apply if you have actually failed the BS Test.

So then the state and superintendents tried throwing each other under whatever buslike structures they could find. And everybody had a full summer to sort out the highly challenging puzzle of what to do with third grade students who had passed every damn class on their report cards. Because, damn, that is a puzzler there.

Too big a puzzler, apparently, because the new school year has arrived, and a whole bunch of third graders are still expected to return to third grade so they can sit through all the lessons that they already successfully completed last year. If they keep refusing to take the test, will their districts just keep them in third grade until they are twenty-one?

We may not have to find out, because now the whole slab of baloney is in court.

Fourteen parents have taken the state, Ed honcho Pam Stewart, and several local districts to court, claiming that their rights were violated.

“The negative behaviors associated with retention are exacerbated here because each of the plaintiffs’ children received a report card with passing grades, some earning straight A’s and Honor Roll for their hard work throughout the school year, but yet they will be retained in the third grade despite having no reading deficiency,” the suit says.

The suit names seven county districts ( Orange, Hernando, Osceola, Sarasota, Broward, Seminole and Pasco counties) but hopes to overturn the entire retention rule, which is so "confusing" that only some districts retained opt out children. And calling it confusing is unkind-- what seems more apparent is that, having stuck themselves with a stupid, unjust rule, the state education department doesn't have the cojones to either enforce it or scuttle it, leaving local superintendents to try to read the state tea leaves through the fog of their own intentions. You can almost hear the panicked conversation in Pam Stewart's office-- "Oh, shit!! Did we say we'd fail every single eight year old who wouldn't take the test! Well, I'm not going on television to demand eight-year-olds be forced to repeat a grade they actually passed, but I'm not going to say somneone screwed up by making such a stupid law in the first place. Just dance around it and let the superintendents take the heat."

And take heat they all will. The full text of the lawsuit is here, along with a link for anyone who wants to contribute. Because that's where we are now, folks-- parent groups have to take up a collection to go to court so that third graders who passed all their classes can be promoted to fourth grade. 


  1. Actually, 3rd graders can only be retained once for failing Florida's BS test. However, given Vammy Pammy's (as we affectionately call her) interesting interpretation of state law--for example, deciding that the law allowing parents to appeal her decisions about forcing their severely disabled children to take the state tests meant parents could appeal only if she approved them appealing--she is probably thanking you for the idea of retaining children in 3rd grade until they are 22 and must exit public school.

  2. Compulsory ages are only 6-16. I guess there is a bright side.

  3. It is against the law to "warehouse" children which is what they are doing. Good for those parents!