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Letter to Rick Scott and Pam Stewart

Governor Rick Scott and his helper at DOE Pam Stewart recently sent a letter to teachers in the state. After reading it I felt insulted. I also felt sad that someone (probably at the Jeb Bush Foundation) took the time to write the general platitudes that treat us like we are fools. Then I realized that the letter was more important for what it left out. The letter was a defense of and double-down on high stakes testing and the diversion of billions of dollars to the educational testing complex.

Governor Scott and DOE mentioned the need for common core despite the fact that we already have standards that took years to develop and billions to implement. Now we are told they are no good. We are simply changing the name of the cottage industry that common core and its massive testing represent. Billions of dollars will be spent and made by software, hardware, and testing companies again – while schools and kids suffer.

Governor Scott failed to mention that Florida is a leader in child poverty and homelessness. He also failed to mention that we already spend 50-70 days a year just giving tests. This will increase under common core. Yes, common core testing will make us yearn for the days of FCAT.

The number of high stakes End of Course Exams is also increasing. Pearson is doing quite well in Florida. Teachers can easily make final exams that are rigorous and relevant but the Governor and DOE don’t trust us. States with high stakes testing do no better on NAEP but Florida is steaming ahead. Just call us the “State Department of Testing.”

One of the biggest scams mentioned in the letter from Patty Levesque, er… I mean Governor Scott, was “College and Career” ready. Let me be clear when I say that using tests like the ACT, SAT or PERT to determine “college ready” is anti-evidence. HSGPA remains the best predictor of college readiness. But there is no money to be made off of that. These tests also have zero relevance to career ready. Let me cite some great points about “college ready” from the famous studies be Geiser. Apparently the Florida Department of Education (testing) is unaware of this important information.

Geiser and Studley (2001)   Geiser and Santelices ( 2007)

  •  HSGPA is consistently the strongest predictor of four-year college outcomes
  • The predictive weight associated with HSGPA increases after the freshman year
  • HSGPA has less adverse impact than standardized tests on disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students
  • Compared to high-school grade point  average (HSGPA), scores on standardized admissions tests such as the SAT I are much more closely correlated with students’ socioeconomic background

With child poverty in the state near 25% , 34% of Hispanics and 26% of blacks without health insurance – Governor Scott and DOE have decided the solution is… MORE TESTING. I find the billion dollar slush fund for testing, consultants, materials and technology to deliver this testing (and common core) to be immoral and criminal.

Teachers have little chance to speak up since due process rights were taken away. There is no protection from random firing. Maybe the state needs a lesson on civil service reform and the history of due process (tenure). It is not a job for life. It is protection and academic freedom.

Our schools are testing factories and should be places of liberal arts and career academy programs. We are not a feeder system for the Chamber of Commerce. The US remains at the top of the world in productivity. (World Economic Forum) There is no STEM crisis and there is no crisis in our schools. Schools are a reflection of society and to scapegoat them is arrogant and shameful -utterly bereft of all class and honesty. We have a poverty crisis. We are at the top of the world in child poverty and refuse to deal with it. Since our non-poverty students score at the top of the word it is obvious we need to deal with the hunger and violence that stalks 25% of our youth.

This is the crime- ignored. Shame on you all. Stop using testing as a political hammer.

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