Statement Regarding the Florida School Boards Association’s (FSBA) Anti-High-Stakes-Testing Resolution

Public pronouncements by any governing institution remain one of the best ways to measure its tenacity of purpose. Embodied inside the words adults choose to convey an important message are their hopes and fears about the future. That is particularly true when schoolchildren are the topic of conversation.

 Yesterday’s vote by the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) in favor of an anti-high-stakes-testing resolution is a perfect example of adults expressing concern about the future. Unfortunately, the resolution is short on providing hope to schoolchildren who are Florida’s future. Similar to the national resolution that calls into question the need for educational assessments, the FSBA’s resolution claims the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is too expensive, narrows the curriculum and is a detriment to student success. Let us separate rhetoric from reality.

Florida invests $16.5 billion in state and local funds to support public schools. Our assessment investment is $59 million. Ensuring that our parents, educators and taxpayers are aware of our students’ educational achievement equates to less than one half of one percent of our investment in public education.

Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards are the foundation for what we expect our students to learn. Subjects covered by Florida standards include English language arts, math, science, social studies, physical and health education, world languages, and fine arts along with other content areas specific to colleges and careers. Contrary to the claim of the FSBA resolution, the FCAT neither drives the curriculum nor narrows the educational experience of Florida students. In fact, at the middle school level, student enrollment in courses such as dance, drama, and world languages has increased more than student enrollment in the subject areas assessed on the FCAT. At the high school level, enrollment in dance, world languages and the humanities has outpaced the growth in student enrollment.

Florida statutes require students take the FCAT in grades 3-10. These assessments average two to three per student per school year and account for less than one percent of the instructional time provided during the year.

 Grade 3 = FCAT 2.0 reading and math

Grade 4 = FCAT 2.0 reading, math and writing

Grade 5 = FCAT 2.0 reading, math and science

Grade 6 = FCAT 2.0 reading and math

Grade 7 = FCAT 2.0 reading and math

Grade 8 = FCAT 2.0 reading, math, writing and science

Grade 9 = FCAT 2.0 reading

Grade 10 =FCAT 2.0 reading and writing

EOCs = Algebra 1, geometry and biology

 It is worth noting that local school boards require students to take many more assessments than those required by the state. For example, four of the first few districts to adopt the anti-high-stakes testing agreement require significant testing in addition to state requirements. This additional testing ranges from an average of four to nine additional tests each year per student. 

 In closing, the FSBA has a right as a governing body to express its opinion about Florida’s accountability system and the tools used to evaluate student achievement. School boards in Florida also have an obligation to implement the education laws approved by the Florida Legislature and the rules promulgated by the State Board of Education. Raising the benchmark set forth in our Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, and annually assessing progress through the FCAT, is a formula with a proven track record of success over the past decade as evidenced in gains made by students—based on race, ethnicity, disability, language, income and other criteria. Surely we have more gains to make, and are putting in place metrics to accomplish this goal, which I know is shared by FSBA. And as Florida walks toward internationally-benchmarked Common Core State Standards adopted by 45 states and 3 territories, now is not the time to focus on a future tapered by fear of so-called high stakes assessments. Instead, let us focus on using assessments to help Florida students develop the high-level skills they need to be successful in higher education, to earn higher-incomes in the workplace, and to participate at a high level in a nation bubbling with high expectations.

 

Letter from Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson to State Representative John Legg Regarding Bullying

Recently State Rep. John Legg from New Port Richey wrote to Florida Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson about an issue that had taken on new meaning for the legislator when he learned of the suicide of a family friend who had been harassed at a New Jersey school. Commissioner Robinson responded with this letter.

Response to State Representative John Legg 4-9-12

Commissioner Robinson talks about updates on FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course exams


Commissioner Robinson’s recent media briefing about FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course Exams. Includes a Q&A with the media.

Also check out the commissioner’s radio interviews on FCAT 2.0 and End-of-Course Exams on WJCT and WFLA

More info can be found on our FCAT site.

 
 

Commissioner talks teacher evaluations, charter schools and more with Orlando Sentinel

Commissioner Robinson sat down with members of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board to discuss education issues, including teacher evaluations, charter schools and a variety of other topics. Check out the video for footage of the meeting.

Stick with Education

 Guest post by Bureau Chief of Family and Community Outreach Joe Davis

I recently had a chance to hear from two accomplished individuals – one a professional, one a student – who each shared with us their stories of motivation. Both highlighted their studies in the field of engineering, and they were able to articulate their inspiring words to encourage kids to do well in school. 

Their messages really resonate with me. Student Andres Gutierrez talked about how he went from living in Colombia and not caring about school to now being a chemical engineering major and interning at a Fortune 500 company. Professional Allan Morales talked about his travels around the nation and how his education laid the foundation for his engineering career. 

Check out Andres’ video  and Allan’s video – they are exactly the types of role models our young students need.

Are you or your children on the path for a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) career? What motivates you or your children to stay in school? How do you think education affects career development? Does your child learn about STEM at their after-school programs?

Miami School Visit

Today I had the opportunity to visit Holmes Elementary School in Miami-Dade County. While there, I met with Principal Atunya R. Walker as well as other teachers and staff. I was very interested in learning how the culture of the school has shifted significantly from a few years ago, and the role the district plays in supporting the turnaround effort at the school site. I also met with a leader of Teach for America for Miami Dade, and Regional Executive Director Gina Eyerman in Region 5 attended the tour with me as well.

Setting Higher Standards for our Students

I released a statement today to let people know of the FCAT 2.0 standard setting process currently underway in Florida. In it I highlighted the fact that committees of teachers, superintendents and business leaders have spent numerous hours over the past several weeks providing feedback on how Florida should report Achievement Levels for our students’ performance on statewide assessments. They offered their feedback; now we are looking for yours. 

You have the opportunity to provide your thoughts on what each grade level’s test scores for expected achievement should be as we continue our work together to improve educational outcomes for all students. To participate in this rule development process, please visit our webpage at https://app1.fldoe.org/rules/default.aspx. Once the feedback period concludes, our next step is to present a recommended rule to the Florida State Board of Education in December for their approval. 

Establishment of these new Achievement Level cut scores is essential in our work to raise expectations for our students and adequately prepare them for the jobs of today. We look forward to hearing from you! 

 

A Waiver for Clarity

Many of you may have read in the news recently about No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers and how Florida is planning on seeking one. I want to take a quick moment to explain why this is important, and the potential benefit to our state. 

  • Currently, we have “A” and “B” state-graded schools that are labeled as struggling according to federal requirements. This is confusing for parents and spreads too many mixed messages in our communities.
  • Florida set a high standard for those federal requirements early on, while other states set lower standards that give the appearance of better performance. 
  • Existing federal requirements are very narrow and do not account for many different facets of the work of our schools.
  • These same requirements do not account for the learning growth of every student.

Florida has been ahead of the curve on this issue, working with our federal partners to establish a school improvement program several years ago that bridged both state and federal accountability requirements. A federal waiver would allow us to further enhance this program to account for the issues above, and allow us to bring clarity to the performance of our schools. I hope you follow this issue closely in the coming months as the benefits to our students will be immeasurable.    

And I close with this: Florida is neither waiving standards nor accountability. Florida simply seeks relief from regulations to better educate our students and to create a learning environment to support our teachers and principals.

Sneak peeks at college life – including how to pay for it!

Guest post by Reyonna Parrish, DOE Office of Student Financial Assistance

What takes the fear out of doing something for the first time? Giving it a trial run. And that is exactly what more than 500 Florida middle school students did during the second annual Florida Department of Education College & Career Day . From campus tours and presentations to meeting face-to-face with college and university recruiters, students walked away with information on financial aid, scholarships, advanced coursework and many other tools to help them succeed as they prepare for high school and beyond. The on-campus experiences and the real-world discussions with those who have been there and done that left an impression on these young minds.

Now, how to pay for the real experience? That is where we come in. DOE’s Office of Student Financial Assistance has tons of info, scholarships and assistance for you. Check us out online!

Did you go to college? If so, what memories do you have of college life? What hopes do you have for incoming college freshmen or other students today? How did you pay for college?

Jacksonville School Visits

This week, I enjoyed visiting the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville. There are many fantastic exhibits to see including one that included photographic and documentary art highlighting the problem of school dropouts. It shared the stories of 20 students who were at risk of dropping out, but now have either graduated or are on track to graduate. It was quite moving. 

Andrew Jackson High School

While in Jacksonville, I also visited Andrew Jackson High and North Shore Elementary, I was interested in seeing what changes have taken place to ramp up academic performance during my tours. 

At Andrew Jackson, I met with Principal Iranetta R. Wright, Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals, and various school board members. The school has partnered with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a career tech program to emphasize the health care industry as a great career option for students. A group of 12th graders told me how much the partnership has helped improve the culture of the school and how the community has embraced the change. 

North Shore Elementary

At North Shore, I met with Principal Felicia W. Hardaway and several teachers. A big change they recently made to help better address the needs of their students was to transform from a K-8 system into a K-5. The school also developed a micro-society program to help teach life financial skills and entrepreneurship, where students are organized by class and grade into towns/states. They elect leaders, pay taxes and fees, and earn “money” via attendance, completion of work, among many other things. I chatted briefly with a student running for the office of governor of the second grade, and she gave me her campaign speech on how she wanted to reduce taxes.

I was also pleased that one of Florida’s State Board of Education members, Mr. Gary Chartrand, joined me for the school visits. He has a deep passion for education and improving the lives of young people and had this to share about the visits:

“This week I spent an entire day with Commissioner Robinson in the Jacksonville community as part of his “look, listen and learn” tour. We visited schools, talked with school leaders, teachers and students to gain a better understanding of the challenges we face in enhancing student achievement. I was also on my own look, listen and learn tour and I can tell everyone associated with public education that your commissioner is the right person for the job. He has a calling to improve learning for all students so each individual can reach their full potential in life. We are fortunate to have Gerard Robinson as our commissioner.”

My visit to Jacksonville was great, and I look forward to continuing my look, listen and learn tour – stay tuned!