Florida’s school superintendents are revolting against the state’s accountability system that uses standardized test scores to measure students, teachers and schools. They just issued a statement saying that they “have lost confidence” in the system’s accuracy and are calling for a suspension and a review of the system.
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents, which represents the state’s 67 district leaders, issued the statement after most of the school chiefs met in Tampa with state schools Commissioner Pam Stewart. They expressed their concerns about the accountability system, which is based on the scores students receive on the Florida Standards Assessments, but she apparently did nothing to temper their concerns and they issued the statement that bluntly says:
Florida district school superintendents have lost confidence in the current accountability system for the students of the State of Florida.
The assessments are aligned to the Florida Standards, which were adopted in 2014 after Florida dropped the Common Core State Standards and developed a new set of standards that many said were remarkably similar to the Core. The state also dropped the Common Core test known as the PARCC — which was created by a multi-consortium funded by the Obama administration to develop new exams aligned to the Core — and bought new computer-administered assessments first given to Florida students this past spring. The administration of the exams was such a mess, with major technological problems, that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the largest district in the state and one of the country’s largest in the country, publicly slammed the tests as did other schools chiefs.
Florida first instituted a school accountability system using standardized test scores under former governor Jeb Bush, who from 1999-2007 ushered in school reforms that became a model around the country. He is now running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and is touting his education reforms.
Previously Florida used a different exam, the FCAT, to evaluate schools in an accountability system that began to crumble even when Bush was governor because of test score validity problems. In recent years, school reformers have added new stakes to the test scores; now they are used to evaluate educators too in a process known as “value-added measurement,” a method that assessment experts have warned against for these purposes but that is popular among school reformers. As an illustration of convoluted the VAM process has become, one teacher in Florida told his school board this year how highest performing students actually harmed his evaluation.
The superintendents are calling for the state to suspend the system for a year — meaning that the scores from this spring’s administration of the exams will not be used in evaluations — and a full review.
In this high stakes environment students, teachers, and schools should not be impacted by a rushed and flawed administration of new, untried assessments. While direct negative consequences were avoided for students, the results of a flawed assessment will impact teacher evaluations (VAM) and be used to judge the quality of schools.
The statement refers to a report commissioned by the Legislature which concluded that the 2015 test results should not be used to deny students the right to graduate or move to the next grade.
Here’s the full statement from the superintendents: