“Accountability” seems to be the latest buzz word in education. The idea is to hold schools and teachers accountable for ensuring children receive a high quality education. At the surface level, it’s hard to argue with that. However, what the state touts as a system designed to ensure every student receives a quality education has turned into a politically-driven, unmitigated disaster. Florida’s accountability system pits schools against each other, discourages collaboration, causes harsh feelings among parents, schools and districts and even drives real estate value using arbitrary, flawed measurements.
The school grading program, which awards each elementary, middle and high school a “grade” from A – F, was first implemented under former Governor Jeb Bush in 1999. The grading formulas are slightly different from elementary to high school, but are largely based on student scores on the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), formerly called the FCAT.
Since inception, the program has been tainted with errors, questions, doubts and problems. Not only are standardized tests not an accurate way to measure schools, the Florida Board of Education (BOE) has the power to change the grading formula and the passing scores on student tests on a whim, and has done so several times since the system was created.
What’s left is a flawed school grading system based on a questionable test that is influencing important decisions. While some parents see the fallacy in the system and pay little attention to school grades, others are making critical decisions regarding where to send their children to school, or even where to live. Independent web sites have popped up that list schools according to grade, and some real estate sites use school grades to drive real estate value, all based on arbitrary formulas.
Statewide, Superintendents, School Boards and parents and teacher advocacy groups have called the entire accountability system into question. Many groups have asked for a complete overhaul of the grading system, including a study of the negative consequences and effect it is having on schools, teachers and students. The BOE and Department of Education have shown no attempt to consider this request. Instead, the BOE plans to meet on January 6 to reset the school grading formula. One board member asked the Board to consider a tougher grading scale which would, once again, lead to more failing schools.
It’s time to hold our state education leaders accountable for the irresponsible system they created and support. Call to Action: Reach out to the BOE before their meeting on January 6. Request a complete overhaul of the school grading system. Let them know that you do not believe standardized tests should be used to measure schools, and that the current grading system is arbitrary and meaningless. Ask that they stop developing convoluted formulas to punish schools and create competition, and instead give all schools the resources and support they need to be successful.
You can reach the Board of Education and Commissioner of Education by email and/or Twitter:
Use the Twitter hashtag: #MessageForFLBOE